Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Dr Barry McSweeney and the Consequences

This is a topic I have meant to write about but never got around to. Now that it seems the issue has been changed it might be a bit late to add this. But anyway here are my thoughts. This story has been around a while now and Gavin and iepolitics have produced some good articles on the matter. I remember (or else I dreamed) a few years ago coming across The University of Clifton. It was described as prestigious university on Irelands west coast. I’m sure many of my readers would laugh at that as I did back then. But to someone outside of Ireland with a poor grasp of Irelands education system the University of Clifton does sound real and appealing. Now for any readers outside of Ireland The University of Clifton does not exist. Clifton is a small town on the west coast of Ireland without any university. The University of Clifton was a diploma mill. You pay your money and you get you degree without the study. To us here the University of Clifton sounds ridicules. But to an American employer. With perhaps a grá for Ireland the degree from the University of Clifton would seem very good on a CV and may get the bearer of the degree a job they are not qualified for. Now hop over the water to Ireland and the controversy that has ensued over Dr Barry McSweeney the government chief science adviser. Dr. In science to get a doctorate you tend to have to do a period of original research and then produce a large thesis about your work. This takes roughly 3 to 4 years. Then when the paper has been approved and you have passed a viva you get to call yourself Dr. However in Dr McSweeney case this did not seem to happen. His PhD is from the Pacific western university which is known as a diploma mill. According to him the university was not a diploma mill when he was awarded it. He claimed that it was given to him due to his life experience. Also he said he was mistaken in his CV when he gave the wrong year of completion of his PhD. Now it has to be wondered how someone in such a high position would make a mistake on what year they completed their PhD on their CV. I mean seriously who would make such a mistake. Also how could he be so naïve to think that a science PhD gained not through research but through “life experience” would be anything but controversial. He was appointed in 2004 taking up the position after previously being the director-general of the European commission’s joint research centre. This does show that the man is in fact qualified for the position. It might be considered an oversight by the government not to check his credentials. But if someone decides to comes from that sort of position it probably is nearly taken for granted that they to would have checked his qualifications This however is not the opinion of many from the Irish blog sphere. Many see the lack of a proper PhD as an insufficient qualification for the position. However one thing I have learned from science people is that they have little knowledge of each others field. Yet they do have some preconceived notions about the others fields (I include myself in this). This is not a good thing. Experts in the field should be the sole provider information not biased by someone not as qualified in that field. That’s why in my opinion someone with a proven track record is more important then a PhD. To me the question is now what can be learned from this experience. This seems to show a lack of a vetting system in the public sector and also in Europe. This needs to be corrected. Proper back round checks need to be put in place so as something like this does not take place. If someone has one of these degrees and uses them to get employment then questions have to asked about the professionalism of that person. Also if this type of PhD is excepted this instantly lowers the quality and desirability of PhD research. This shows the man does not respect the intuition of PhD. This is a highly unhealthy situation and the fact that he has not been fired mearly moved makes even more of an international laughing stock. To be fooled once is forgivable. But to know the falsehood of his qualification and still keep him says something about us.


Fiona de Londras said...

I've been writing quite a bit about this as well and I think that, although you're right in saying that a PhD wasn't necessarily a pre-requisite of the job, the fact that he holds a 'PhD' from a factory (basically) means that his reputation as a serious scientist is..well..non-existent, surely. Certainly he has a good track record and seems to be a great manager and have all the business and managerial acumen you could desire for this job his reputation was tarnished to such an extent that his position was untenable

It is a vetting problem - absolutely - but maybe it also says something about the man. WHY would anyone get a PhD from a place like that?

Simon said...

ya have to agree thats what i was trying to get at. He is very qualified but the fact that he lied about the PhD is extremely dodge.