Enterprise, Trade and Employment Minister Micheál Martin was quizzed in the Dáil yesterday by opposition deputies as to why the government's Chief Scientific Adviser "Doctor" Barry McSweeney was appointed without an interview and why, given his bogus PhD, he is still in the job (you can read the entire exchanges here). Brendan Howlin TD put the following point to the Minister:
The principal academic qualification, the PhD held by the chief science adviser, is in question. Is the Minister satisfied that the awarding university, the Pacific Western University, is acceptable for the prestigious post of chief science adviser? Has the Minister independently checked the university’s record, its capacity and its recognition within the academic community in the US, or is the Minister entirely dependent on the view given by the chief science adviser?
Martin replied that he had asked the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland to "assess the bona fides of that institution" and "its view was that it did not have accrediting powers within the US. In our discussions with the chief science adviser, his view was that the body he dealt with at that time is vastly different from the one in place now".
Ha! Of course it's different now. When McSweeney was "awarded" his doctorate he probably had to send a cheque in the mail instead of processing the transaction over the Internet. Is it likely that a respectable academic institution would turn itself into a degree mill?
I am also concerned with the fact that such an important post was never advertised. Deputy Howlin pointed out that "the Minister referred to the appointment of the Director of Consumer Affairs as being of such importance that a worldwide search would have to be carried out independently by the Public Appointments Service, so critical was that job to the economy" He asked "if the Minister regard the job of chief science adviser, one of the pillars of the approach of recognising science as a pivotal part of Ireland’s economic future, in the same light? Would it not have been best to advertise to find whether a more suitable candidate was available, rather than simply selecting one individual, as exemplary as the Minister obviously believes the candidate to be?" Micheál Martin chose not to reply to this substantive point.