Sometimes, the politics of science can get ugly, and they don’t get much uglier than this ghastly mess going on among paleontologists. I’ve read a couple of accounts of this story so far, and it sounds to this outsider like a few senior scientists riding roughshod over their junior colleagues and students and appropriating as their own the interpretations and details of others’ explanations. There seem to be shenanigans all over the place, and it seems to be in the interests of all parties involved to resolve the issues.
The sensible thing to do would be to have an impartial review of both sides of the story by neutral but knowledgeable observers — as a non-paleontologist, someone like me would certainly defer to the judgment of such a panel. Well, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science put together a review, supposedly, and did so in such a bumbling, biased, and stupid way that although they decided there was no wrongdoing, I’m persuaded otherwise. Why else make such an effort to assemble a kangaroo court?
Spencer Lucas and his colleagues at the NMMNHS were accused of using the work of William Parker, Jerzy Dzik, and Jeff Martz without proper attribution. To judge this accusation, the NMMNHS put together a committee of external experts that consisted of people who had published with Lucas, one of whom declared his summary judgment before the hearings were held.
They’re accused of a serious impropriety, so they blatantly fix the review, packing the jury and even declaring innocence before the trial? That’s compounding a major ethical lapse on top of an accusation of an ethical lapse, and only makes the problem worse. What were they thinking?