It’s a PhD Jim, but not as we know it…

A story in today’s WalesOnline, originally published in the Western Mail, inspired me to add a short item to this blog.

Mark Brake is a writer and broadcaster and Professor of Science Communication at the University of Glamorgan. According to the Western Mail, in May 2006 he completed a detailed tender for the Swindon-based RCPO – a professional procurement unit that works with seven of Britain’s research councils. Allegedly, in the 26-page document, Professor Brake  claimed to hold a doctorate with the title Astrophysics: Chemical Evolution of the Galaxies, awarded by University College Cardiff, the name held by Cardiff University until 1988. He never wrote such a thesis and holds no such degree.

The article goes on to say that the application was successful, and the University of Glamorgan was awarded £285,264 for a six-month Researchers in Residence project. Surprisingly, although the University of Glamorgan has not disputed the facts in the article, it has failed to return the money.

You will find no mention of this episode on Professor Brake’s  Wikipedia page, the content of which appears nevertheless to be hotly disputed.

Professor Brake, a self-styled “astrobiologist”, declined to comment on the article, but a comment on the WalesOnline site says it all:

It’s a PhD Jim……..but not as we know it………..

POSTSCRIPT 20th October 2009

The WalesOnline story has now been amended to state that the application was not successful. I am therefore happy to retract my criticism of the University of Glamorgan for failing to return the money, and accept that they never received it.

The rest of the story remains in place.

Moreover, here is the relevant part of page 19 of the 26-page document that was submitted to the RCPO. Apologies for the slightly wonky result of the scanning. It’s not ambiguous, and I have no reason to believe that it is a forgery.  Had Mark Brake been awarded a PhD then a copy of the thesis would be in the Cardiff University library (which it isn’t) and the National Library of Wales (which it isn’t). Either this document is a forgery or Professor Brake did indeed falsely represent his qualifications in the application.brake

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39 Responses to “It’s a PhD Jim, but not as we know it…”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    I’m surprised only that you’re surprised they are hanging on to the money. This man should, supposing what you say is accurate, be sacked instantly. Hopefully a few atrophysicists of the calibre of Martin Rees will be willing to say the same.
    Anton

  2. telescoper Says:

    Alas what should happen and what does happen are not always the same.

  3. This is appalling if true. How can the University of Glamorgan not treat this with the utmost severity?

  4. telescoper Says:

    Alan,

    The University of Glamorgan does not dispute the facts, but says that it was an “isolated incident”. Apparently he was moved to a different unit within the University but remains an employee.

    On his wikipedia page he claims to be a Fellow of the Institute of Physics. I have written to them with a suggestion that they reconsider the appropriateness of that status.

    More importantly than what happens to the man himself, in my opinion, the University of Glamorgan should certainly have returned the funds voluntarily or have been compelled to do so by the RCPO.

    Peter

  5. It might be of interest to your readers to note two things. Firstly, that the original article published in the Western Mail is in error. The document in their possession is fraudulent. Secondly, it is also in error to the effect that the bid concerned was NOT successful, and the University concerned were never in receipt of the money.

    It seems unfortunate that you have chosen to take this action with the IoP without establishing a better analysis of your data.

  6. telescoper Says:

    The Western Mail article remains online, and I have heard no evidence to back up your assertion on either point. No comments have been published to that effect on WalesOnline either.

    I suggest you take up this matter with the Western Mail, whose story I was reporting.

  7. But the Western Mail did not busy itself by writing to the IoP. YOU did

  8. telescoper Says:

    The Western Mail put the matter into the public domain. I drew it to the attention of the IOP, so they can investigate the matter. I passed on the item in good faith and my conscience is clear.

  9. [...] It’s a PhD Jim, but not as we know it… « In the Dark telescoper.wordpress.com/2009/10/19/its-a-phd-jim-but-not-as-we-know-it – view page – cached A story in today’s WalesOnline inspired me to add a short item to this blog. — From the page [...]

  10. telescoper Says:

    I’m using my new-found Twitter powers to see if anyone has the true facts on this…

  11. Anton Garrett Says:

    David: If you are not disputing that Mark Brake has no PhD from Cardiff then it is perfectly in order for Peter to point out to the IoP that one of its Fellows has misrepresented his qualifications. Exactly which contentions are you disputing, and what is your source of info that the Western Mail is wrong, please?
    Anton

  12. Voice_of_Truth Says:

    Contrary to what has been stated above, the grant application document is not fraudulent, although the initial story is inaccurate in that the grant bid was indeed not successful. The application form (with the claimed PhD qualification) was even presented as evidence to a Univ. of Glamorgan disciplinary panel, investigating another staff member who was accused (and dismissed for) harassing Prof. Brake. The very fact that the university itself does not dispute these facts would seem to be a clear indication that they know what occurred.

    If “David” has proof that the aforementioned document is fraudulent, I’m sure we’d love to see it. I’m sure a Freedom of Information Act request to the grant awarding body would rapidly confirm the truth. “David”, why don’t you make that request and post what you find here? Or better yet, why don’t several of us do that, and then we can all verify this….

  13. telescoper Says:

    Voice_of_Truth: Thank you for the clarification of what is clearly a very murky story. Of course it explains why the University of Glamorgan didn’t return the money. It never had it. It would indeed be interesting to see the documents to which you refer, although I suppose they may subsequently have been destroyed.

    I’m sure Mark Brake “David” can enlighten us further.

  14. Voice_of_Truth Says:

    I’m sure RCPO will have copies on record, as the application was only made ~3 years ago. Interestingly, comments similar to those made by “David” have appeared on the WalesOnline website, from “Dragon2009″, and they go further in implying that this news story was leaked by a disgruntled ex-employee with a grudge against the Prof.

    Again there is far more to this story than has been made public so far, and there may be far more iceberg just below the surface…but if claims are now being made (“David”/”Dragon2009″) that the documents seen by the reporter are actually fraudulent, then that could/should be investigated by the police as this would presumably constitute libel (“a false and malicious publication printed for the purpose of defaming a living person”). I guess the Prof will be taking this up with the Western Mail soon in this case, and more light may be shed on these matters.

  15. telescoper Says:

    I have already taken steps to obtain a copy of the document, and hope shortly to be able to post the relevant part on this blog.

  16. Anton Garrett Says:

    Voice of Truth:

    Was the harassment of Brake, for which another Glamorgan staff member got the sack, over the issue of whether Brake had lied, or something else (ie, was an innocent whistle-blower sacked merely for blowing the whistle)?

    Anton

  17. Mark Brake is a top guy!

    hope it all works out o.k. for you!

    an admirer.

  18. Mr Physicist Says:

    What about the MSc – genuine?

  19. telescoper Says:

    Dear Mr Physicist,

    Yes, there is an MSc thesis with the correct title in the records of the Cardiff University library. He does have an MSc.

    Peter

  20. There are other allegations in the various versions since June of Brake’s Wikipedia page

  21. david ike Says:

    I think you are all lizards

  22. telescoper Says:

    Just a reminder that I will not allow abusive comments or comments from anonymous sources and will take seriously any attempts to violate this ban.

    My access logs make very interesting reading.

    I decided to let the above comment through as it is relatively mild. Perhaps the commenter would like to explain his/her thoughts in a little more detail?

  23. Anton Garrett Says:

    Peter,

    David Icke appears (or appeared) to genuinely believe that the world is run by a set of people, including many top politicians, who can morph into man-sized lizards at will, eg in meetings of their own kind.

    On Jon Ronson’s interesting TV series “Secret Rulers of the Universe” a few years ago about conspiracy theories, there appeared the incredible sight of some American Jews shouting at Icke because they believed that Icke was anti-semitic and was using “lizards” as code for “Jews,” and Icke was firing back that he really did mean lizards.

    I have some sympathy with certain aspects of some conspiracy theories (note cautious wording), but not this one…

    Anton

  24. Haley Gomez Says:

    David

    This is an open discussion regarding very serious allegations of (personal opinion) malpractice by someone who should really know better. Anyone pretending to have been awarded a PhD when in fact, they haven’t is making a mockery of all the people who have worked extremely hard to get one. There is no excuse for this, it is a lie and it should never have happened – if this false claim keeps cropping up time and again, what other false statements have been said by the person in question?

    If you’d like to contribute to this discussion, please feel free to make a valid statement to prove/disprove/provide information relevant to this forum here rather than acting like a child.

  25. Anton Garrett Says:

    This story has now reached The Times Higher Education Supplement:

    http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=408845

  26. [...] I thought it would be worth giving a short update on the Mark Brake affair I posted about a couple of weeks ago. If you don’t want to go back to the original post let me [...]

  27. [...] There aren’t many rules for how a viva voce examination should be conducted or how long it should last, but the can be as short as, say, 2 hours and can be as long as 5 hours or more. The examiners usually ask a mixture of questions, some about the details of the work presented and some about the general background. The unpredictable content of a viva voce examination makes it very difficult to prepare for, and it can be difficult and stressful for the candidate (as well as just tiring, as it can drag on for a long time). However, call me old-fashioned but I think if you’re going to get to call youself Doctor of Philosophy you should expect to have to work for it. Some might disagree. [...]

  28. [...] quite surprized to find myself posting yet another item about this story over a month after I originally mentioned it, but the events of the few days I really don’t feel like letting it [...]

  29. [...] in 2006 by claiming to have a PhD. This is an ongoing story on this blog – see previous posts here, here and here and I had been logging the comments for future reference. I was worried that the [...]

  30. [...] to post a brief update on the story of Mark Brake, a Professor at the University of Glamorgan who falsely claimed to have a PhD from Cardiff University when applying for a grant in 2006. After this came to light [...]

  31. [...] who falsely claimed to have a PhD on a grant application written in 2006 (see, for example,  here, here, and here). The UoG purportedly held an  ”investigation” into this matter, but [...]

  32. Stephen Williams Says:

    Mark Brake was a successful and popular university lecturer, everyone that knows or has met Mark will tell you the same thing. I think it is a huge shame for all involved that such a good lecturer and fighter for the valleys community has been hounded out of his position. Whether or not he has the qualification in question should not detract from his success in other areas It’s a crying shame because he was such a lovely guy and someone that brought education and science to the masses.

  33. Ex-Glamorgan Says:

    Unfortunately Stephen’s glowing opinion of Brake is definitely NOT supported by “everyone who knows or has met” the man. The events discussed here just revealed the top of a (sadly) rather large and murky iceberg, and I’d certainly agree with the assessment of telescoper.

  34. I agree with Ex-Glamorgan.

    I have heard on good authority that 4 or 5 members of staff made complaints about Mark Brake’s aggressive and bullying “management” style in the period 2003-2007. He drove several members of staff to resign rather than work under him.

    Also, ALL the students from the 2007 Astronomy & Space graduating class filed formal complaints (individually) about his unprofessional attitude, and his lies to them about facilities they’d have access to in their time at Glamorgan.

    Mark Brake was witnessed by two members of staff falsifying student registers for the astronomy courses being run in the valleys. This is a criminal offence, which Glamorgan has tried to bury all evidence of, rather than properly investigate it.

    From everything I hear, from people who worked with him or studied under him, Brake was a fake. He claimed to have qualifications he didn’t have, created jobs for his partner who then didn’t produce any work, let his students down by lying to them and deemed it more important to get to the supermarket before it closed than it was to lecture his students.

    He’s lucky he got away with just being dismissed, he could well have faced criminal prosecution (and maybe should have).

    • SciComdude Says:

      I’m afraid I have to agree with all of the above. I started an MSc course at Glamorgan that should have finished last April. It’s now March and I’m still in discussion with the university about undoing all of Mark Brake’s bullshit and finishing my degree. He lied extensively to me about all sorts of aspects of the course. Nothing he told me was true and he attitude was “start late, finish early and have lots of regular coffee breaks”. He simply tells people what he thinks will impress them. What a pain in the ass.

  35. [...] on Twitter) and Mr Mark  Brake the disgraced former University of Glamorgan employee who falsely claimed to have a PhD when applying for a grant in 2006 and whose professorship at Glamorgan was terminated in mysterious [...]

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