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February 2008

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My biggest problam is that he lied I don't think you need a phd for the job. When people do phd they become very focused on one subject and no little of any other. After 5 years of physics education I know alot about physics but i couldn't tell the difference between a vein and an artaray. In that position it may even be better not to have a science education. so the person has no prejuices going into the job and uses the experts knowledge not there own.


Regarding the McSweeney issue:

I am a Prof in an Irish University and have been reading your interesting exchange of views. I think the following points are worth making:

Re the "outing" of McSweeney; there had been many whispers about his doctorate (from where did he get it? etc) prior to its exposure by the Sunday Independent. In an interview with McSweeney, the Irish Times had already mentioned that he had received what he called "an earned PhD" from PWU. It is obvious that McSweeney already knew it was, at least, an 'unorthodox' qualification due to his choice of the phrase 'earned' when asked by the reporter.

The journalist with the Sunday Independent who first wrote about it (having spotted it in the IT) deserves congratulations for publicising the fact that the Irish Chief Science Adviser was inappropriately using the title 'Dr' to provide him with enhanced credibility. If he was not using the title and had kept the PhD quiet then there would be no issue. However, all government press releases refer to him as 'Dr'.

One of McSweeney's jobs is to promote PhD-level research in Ireland. McSweeney has claimed he was unaware of any problem with PWU until the newspapers investigated his qualification. If, as he would like us to believe, he thought that an institution advertising degrees based on life experience was a credible institution then he is stupid and, therefore, is not up to the job of advising the government on PhD-level research.

Given that McSweeney has significant experience and is a very bright individual (I can attest to the latter as I have met him face-to-face), the much more credible explanation is that he wished to be called 'Dr' but did not want to go through the effort of enrolling in a PhD program in an Irish University or any other university that would require 3-4 years of full-time research. According to his CV, he received his PWU PhD in 1994 although we are now told that it was 1992 (an "administrative error" on his CV apparently!). The fact that McSweeney has gone to lengths to cover up the origin of his PhD suggests he knew precisely the problem with his 'PhD'. It also explains the confusion mentioned on this thread over whether he also has a PhD from Dublin University (Trinity College). He hasn't. However, he has been happy for this to be stated in a number of articles without it being subsequently corrected. See this article from the journalist who originally broke the story:

Whether or not the job of Chief Science Adviser requires a PhD is not the issue. If we accept the innocent explanation that he did not know that a PhD from PWU was not legitimate in academic circles, he is obviously not up to the job of advising the Government on doctoral research. If he did know but was happy to use the 'Dr' title then his credibility is irrevocably damaged as it will be impossible for him to be a convincing advocate for research (particularly PhD level - my PhD students are wondering why they are putting in all the effort if they can just buy one!). In addition, his role had meant that he has become involved in debates regarding GMOs, for example. His scientific credibility is now damaged and he is unlikely to be taken seriously by the various stakeholders in such debates.

The time allowed for 'due process' by the Government, i.e. why they have not fired him yet is probably because he may be refusing to resign (he is a rather arrogant individual). Under European Labour Law, given that the PhD was not an offical requirement, it may be quite difficult to fire him.

Ireland remains extremely strict regarding what institutions are allowed to call themselved universities. There are 6 universities in Ireland. Just two institutions (if you exclude the NUI Colleges becoming Universities which, in effect, they were all along), DCU and Limerick, have gained university status since 1900. It is also very strict regarding degree-awarding status. A beneficial side-effect of this controversy is that, hopefully, it will discourage others from claiming titles and qualifications which have not been earned in an appropriate manner and ensure that proper checks are put in place for all government appointments. I note they have not down so with the recent appointment of the Trannsport Tzar


Good reply poster. If he didn't do the 3-4 years of research or produced a signifcate research papers he souldn't be DR.


Re. McSweeney. I now have no sympathy for him and he should be fired. He said on this news interview:
that he would not produce his PhD thesis although some of it had already been published in the Lancet and the Annals of Clinical Biochemistry.

The Irish Independent wrote the following today (Nov 17th):

"Meanwhile, efforts by the Irish Independent to secure a copy of a published article in a leading journal by Mr McSweeney failed yesterday.

Mr McSweeney in a television interview said his work had been published in the medical journal 'The Lancet'.

But a spokesperson for the publication said: "I have searched our database for Barry McSweeney and there is no record of this name.

"I have also searched Lancet-on-line, all issues, and this name does not appear at all."

Asked what the substantive subject matter for his PhD was, a spokesperson for Mr McSweeney's office would not comment.

Instead, she referred to an old newspaper interview in which he claimed this doctorate was based on work and publications accomplished earlier in his career and on experience gained during his time as head of BioResearch Ireland, a promotional body for biotechnology research.

Further efforts to secure specific references for published peer-reviewed work by Mr McSweeney met with no response."

I checked the Web of Science and there is no record of a B McSweeney publishing in the Annals of Clinical Biochemistry either.

I had thought the outcome was reasonable but now I have changed my mind. Someone who lies like this is not fit to hold any government post.

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