Top science adviser faces fresh claims over doctorate

This story featured in the Irish Times last week, and as it fell during a hiatus, I did not write about it. I did however intend to come back to it.

As some readers may know one of the major incidents to happen with this blog in its 3 years plus existence was the entire John Gray controversy. Long story short, he threatened legal action because I questioned his qualifications. I refused to retract or apologise, and haven’t heard anything since.

In the current story, it appears that the government’s Chief Science Advisor, Barry McSweeney, received his PhD from ‘Pacific Western University‘. Readers may find this Wiki entry on it most enlightening (bad spelling in it though). A highly controvserial place without any doubt.

TD Michael Martin’s qualification…

…stressed Dr McSweeney’s view “was that the body he dealt with at that time is vastly different from the one in place now.â€?

This argument is rather hollow. Pacific Western did operate in California before the introduction of the Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education Reform Act – but California was well known for diploma mills due to its lack of stringent rules relating to approval.

As with my case, the argument hinges on the accredited versus approved scenario, and on whether a PhD gained through ‘life experience’ is a valuable one. Some remarked curiously:

Sources close to Tánaiste Mary Harney last night defended the appointment, saying he had vast experience and was recommended in a telephone call from former British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock. One said there was “no PhD requirementâ€? for the job.

That’s beside the point. What’s at issue is whether the value of a PhD is diminished, and whether that PhD is properly accredited by a reputable institution.

In my own humble opinion, Barry McSweeney should resign now.

8 thoughts on “Top science adviser faces fresh claims over doctorate”

  1. Why do feel so strongly Gavin? I understand that the qualification is clearly dubious and the issue of clarity in the standards of academic qualifications issued worldwide is hugely important however if he didn’t lie to get the job and if a PhD is not a prerequisite for the job then on what basis should he resign? Is it because you feel the Government have led the public to believe he’s more qualified than he appears to be or that you feel he’s less competent for the job?

  2. Its not that I believe anyone was misled – but surely having a person in such a high profile job, with a qualification from such a very dubious establishment is harmful. Harmful in the perception of the government, of Ireland, harmful in terms of the value of other people’s PhD’s or other qualifications. Does it not make little of Ireland when our Chief Science Advisor is in the middle of such controversy? At least in the UK people still resign over even the perception of something inappropriate – and I believe this situation to be untenable.

  3. I think Gavin and I are singing off the same hymnsheet here: someone who’s supposed to be overseeing research but who gained such a dubious qualification should resign, not because you need a PhD to do the job but because the way he went about it shows such contempt for serious research and education.

    (And I’m pissed off at the work I do sitting here researching and writing everyday for the next three years being devalued by things like this…but that’s just an aside)

  4. Re Barry McSweeney – he should do the decent thing and resign. No point in continuing as a charlatan

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