Brake Out

You may recall that I’ve posted a few times about Mark Brake, the professor at the University of Glamorgan 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 took no disciplinary action against Brake. When the story resurfaced again last year, first in the Western Mail and then in the Times Higher, the University of Glamorgan kept very quiet about why it hadn’t taken this case more seriously in the first place, but promised a further investigation into the actions taken at the time.

Things have been very quiet on this front for quite some time now, but I recently heard from a reliable source that Mark Brake has been made redundant by the University of Glamorgan (as of March 31st 2010).  If this is a result of an investigation into past wrongdoings then  clearly the UoG have decided to let Brake go quietly rather than make any of the evidence public. I have no information about the redundancy settlement but, whatever it is, it is largely funded by the taxpayer, as his salary has been for the past three years, since the original investigation exonerated him. Of course, if the UoG did uncover evidence that was overlooked in 2007 then it would be extremely embarrassing to have to admit it three years later…

The UoG remains quiet about the affair which – at least to me – casts grave doubts on its system of governance. They seem to want this case to disappear quietly, but I don’t think it is in the public interest to let the circumstances of Brake’s departure remain secret. At the very least I hope they make an official announcement confirming that he has left the organisation, otherwise his famous wikipedia page will  forever state that he is an employee of the UoG.

The University of Glamorgan website doesn’t say anything about the Mark Brake affair. However, there is an announcement about the new Wales Fraud Forum which will meet there for the first time later this month. Who said irony was dead?

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35 Responses to “Brake Out”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    This should have happened after the grant application issue came out. I see no reason for any settlement. But we await further details, presumably in the Times Higher.

    Depriving a man of his livelihood is never a matter for any celebration, but standards must be preserved. I hope Mark Brake comes to share the viewpoint of those who sought his dismissal, and I hope he is soon in legitimate employment of another kind.

  2. Truth Seeker Says:

    It is scandalous that (a) it has taken some 3 years for UoG to take action against Brake for him lying about having a PhD on a grant proposal and (b) that it would seem he has been “made redundant” rather than dismissed. As you say Peter – this probably means he has received some kind of redundancy package, at the taxpayers’ expense. If he had been dismissed, as it would seem UoG had every grounds to do, he would not have received any kind of package. So why have UoG chosen to make him redundant rather than dismiss him? I can only guess that it is to avoid the scandal of a prominent professor being found guilty of misconduct. From the THES story it would seem the whistleblower who brought this matter to UoG’s attention was dismissed, so why has Brake got away so lightly?

    It is a pity the discussion thread to the THES story has been removed, because in that thread were a number of very interesting posts, in particular allegations of further wrongdoing by Brake. I hope these matters will come to light too – so that we can all learn the full extent of his wrong doings. Again, according to the THES story, Dr. Paul Roche made complaints about Brake before resigning his position. Maybe Dr. Roche can tell us the nature of some of those allegations. And maybe Dr. Anwen from the THES thread can expand on what he has heard from his “source” at Glamorgan.

    I think this story still has some ways to run…

  3. Anton Garrett Says:

    @Truth Seeker:

    Let’s wait for the THES and then, if more info is needed, ask the appropriate people whether Brake wrote further untruths on job, promotion, grant, learned society fellowship applications etc. Everything on those applications should be looked at. U Glamorgan certainly have some questions to answer, and it would be interesting to know why Brake resigned his Fellowship of the Institute of Physics recently.

    Anton

  4. I don’t think Brake should ever have been a professor. UoG made a wise choice in getting rid of him although the redundancy route is questionable.

    That said, it is undoubtedly a personal tragedy for Brake and his family. He leaves with his reputation in tatters. Its a sad end to a sad story.

  5. I checked Brake’s webpage: http://www.markbrake.com/. He seems not to mention UoG but still likes to use the title professor (it was updated in recent days). He may technically be able to do this. However, a professor title usually implies a university affiliation and this type of title use seems somehow symptomatic of the original “Dr No” problem which first brought Brake to the attention of the wider community.

    My sympathy for him is waning somewhat.

  6. telescoper Says:

    Dave,

    Interesting point. People with the status of Professor usually carry on calling themselves “Professor” after they’ve retired. I think the same goes for people of rank in the services. However, this chap isn’t retired so I don’t know whether it’s ethically sound for hime to continue calling himself professor.

    Peter

  7. Anton Garrett Says:

    A Chair is not a qualification. Legitimate use of the title ‘professor’ therefore depends on a person being in good standing with the academic institution which originally awarded it. Whether Mark Brake agrees, and whether Wikipedia agrees, we shall find out.
    Anton

  8. Peter,

    Usually the retired academic gentry get some type of emeritus title to distinguish them from the fully employed professors. In the UK at least, I’ve never encountered a retired prof who still used the prof title without an emeritus tag preceding it. I wonder if there are fast rules about the use of titles when one leaves an institution or whether there is just an unspoken convention.

    As mentioned earlier, I did have some sympathy for him. There’s nothing to celebrate about someone losing their job (though I may make an exception in Gordon Brown’s case). However, judging from the website he seems not to have learned the lesson about using academic titles in a non-ambiguous way. Also, I can’t quite get my head around why titles are so important to some people – I rarely use any of my titles.

  9. telescoper Says:

    Your comment reminds me of a trip to hospital. The surgical registrar with whom I had a preliminary consultation got very shirty when I called him Doctor. Apparently surgeons always prefer Mr!

  10. If I encountered someone calling themselves emeritus prof, I would immediately think they were a retired prof. A visiting prof would imply to me a temporary appointment at a specific institution; similarly the title prof implies to me somebody currently employed at an institution. I doubt that my interpretations of these titles differs from those of the majority of the academic community. In my opinion, to avoid likely misinterpretations, Mark Brake should describe himself as something like a former Prof at UoG who is presently an independent academic.

  11. Anton Garrett Says:

    Peter,

    If the surgeon has a PhD as well as being a medical doctor then they formally remain Dr – but it is to be understood as referring to the PhD. (At least English academics don’t insist on the equivalent of “Herr Professor Doktor”!) Perhaps a slight change of pronunciation of the word “Doctor” would do the trick?

    On which subject, somebody in my class at (‘high’) school suggested pronouncing the curly ‘d’ in partial derivatives as ‘day’ to signify the partialness of it. Brilliant idea!

    Anton

  12. telescoper Says:

    I note also that Brake uses the lower-case form of professor. Perhaps that is because is he is merely professing to be a Professor.

  13. Why does it come as a surprise to anyone that Brake is continuing to deceive by his continued use of the title professor? People on the THES thread pointed out that he’d been deceiving people about having a PhD since at least 1998.

  14. “A visiting prof would imply to me a temporary appointment at a specific institution”. Usually, professors who are temporarily visiting are just guests, with no title at all. “Visiting Professor” usually implies that the person has no “real” position at the institute (though he usually does elsewhere) but is a distinguished guest of the institute. This is often the case for people who have retired and continue to work at a place other than where they worked before they retired and/or people who have a position elsewhere but some sort of personal connection to the institute they are “visiting”. In both cases, the position is usually quite long term. I’m thinking about, for example, Bernard Jones who is a “senior visiting scientist” in Groningen, or Sjur Refsdal, who was a “Professor II” (Norwegian title) in Oslo while his real job was in Hamburg.

  15. Either Brake is using a “professor” title without Glamorgan’s authority, or he has been given some kind of emeritus or visiting status by them. As he was “made redundant” (dismissed?) I find it unlikely that Glamorgan would have given him any kind of professor title, although I assume an email to Glamorgan would clear this up.

    The most likely explanation remains that he is using the title because he has shown, based on previous form, that he likes to portray himself as something he is not….

  16. I notice that there has been a lot of editing of Brake’s wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Brake in the last few days. But it still refers to him as being a professor at Glamorgan.

  17. Dr Anwen Says:

    My attention has just been drawn to this blog. Yes it is a pity that the Times Higher discussion of the Brake falsely claiming to have a PhD on a grant proposal was removed.

    I will repeat here what my source told me were some of the other acts of gross misconduct Brake was accused of.

    1. That he set up a job for his partner Rosi Thornton in 2005. From March to November 2005 she was employed by SETPOINt Wales of which Brake was the director. Her line manager saw no evidence of any work during this period, and his attempts to have a one-to-one weekly meeting with Ms Thornton were repeatedly blocked by Brake. Ms Thornton was given permission to “work” from home, despite (or maybe because of) having a young child (about 7-8 months old during the middle part of this period). When the head of department insisted Ms Thornton attend a weekly meeting with her line manager and spend a day a week on campus she resigned.

    2. Brake supervised the falsification of class registers for community courses being run as part of the Rocotto project. This was witnessed by two members of staff. Falsification of student registers is a criminal offence. My source knows the names of the two members of staff who witnessed this fraud.

  18. Dr Anwen Says:

    Apparently ex-prof Fake is advertising his services as a maths and physics tutor on a card in the Tesco in Aberdare.

  19. He may have brought about his own downfall but I don’t think this is anything to celebrate. I hope he gets himself back on his feet and learns lessons from what happened.

  20. Dr Anwen Says:

    David – my source at Glamorgan tells me that when the whistleblower blew the whistle on Brake in 2007 he denied ever having claimed to have a PhD on a grant proposal (or anywhere else). He also denied any other wrong doing, and saw to it that the whistleblower was dismissed for “harassing” him! I have no sympathy for such a man and feel that now he’s finally getting his comeuppance.

  21. He brought this upon himself and being forced out of Glamorgan was the right outcome. However, this doesn’t imply that we should take pleasure from him apparently offering his services in Tescos, not least since it distracts from other players in this drama who also merit criticism. For example, a whistle blower was apparently sacked for exposing the false PhD claim. What type of compensation will he/she now get ? Probably nothing. What type of investigation (if any) did UoG undertake into the whistle-blower’s claims and Brake’s accusations against him/her ? Who carried out the investigation ? Are they still in place and in a position to affect other people’s careers.

    Ultimately one is left with the impression that Brake was forced out not just because of anything he did, but because of the publicity surrounding his actions. This is worrying.

    On another note, I wonder why the THE hasn’t covered the story of Brake leaving UoG.

  22. Dr Anwen Says:

    I understand the Times Higher will be running a story on this soon.

  23. Dave raises some very interesting points. Who was the member of management who dealt with the whistle-blower bringing the false claim of a PhD to UoG’s attention? Why did it seem to require the story to break in the Western Mail and Times Higher before UoG took any meaningful action? What of the other, very serious, allegations Dr Anwen mentions. Have these been investigated? By who? Did the police become involved as they should have.

    There is still a lot to come out in this scandal. Let’s hope the Times Higher are prepared to do a bit of digging. Maybe Private Eye should get involved as it looks like a story that’s right up their alley.

  24. Dr Anwen Says:

    Brake’s line manager in 2006 was Dr Rhobert Lewis according to my source. No one I’ve spoken to has any idea what action he took when the PhD claim on the grant proposal was brought to his attention. The matter was later brought to the attention of Prof Donna Mead and the University Secretary. It would seem no action was taken against Brake until the story broke in the Western Mail and Times Higher.

    I presume the other allegations I mentioned above were brought to the attention of tha same people but I’ll check.

  25. I can see from looking at the UoG website that Rhobert Lewis is now deputy dean, and that Donna Mead has an OBE.

    http://hesas.glam.ac.uk/staff/

    A bit of research shows that she got her OBE in the New Year’s honours list of 2009.

    “Professor Mead has been named in the 2009 New Year Honours list and will receive an OBE for her services to healthcare.”

    Good to see that bad management and failure to deal with Brake has been rewarded so well. She obviously did not get it for services to management.

  26. Dr. Anwen Says:

    I have also been reliably informed by my source that the lying about his PhD on a grant proposal was brought to the attention of the Vice Chancellor himself. And yet NOTHING was done by Glamorgan until the Western Mail and Times Higher broke the story. This is truly scandalous….

  27. Dr. Anwen Says:

    I should add that it was brought to the VC’s attention in December 2007…

  28. [...] importance of university governance. If he’s true to his word he should look into the Mark Brake affair. I think the taxpayers of Wales have a right to know what’s been going on. Possibly related [...]

  29. An interesting discussion this but somewhat peripheral to a bigger scandal earlier …

    Anyone interested in discussing mis-management at UniGlam could also start digging into the ‘SECRET’ 2003 Prof. Abel enquiry. He was the ‘independent’ chair brought in from a South western Uni. not the miscreant (!) – investigating allegations of mismanagement in another department at UniGlam – the Business School. This resulted in 3 of the top four in the Business School being ‘re-deployed’ or asked to leave. Amongst other matters – creative diversion of euro funds and racism had been mentioned. Two were left on the payroll so were either strong Catholics or good Lodge members. To hang on so long … Which was Brake ?

  30. telescoper Says:

    Eric,

    That’s the first I’ve heard of this, but then it dates from a time long before I moved to Wales. If you have firm evidence of wrongdoing I suggest you report it to HEFCW and/or the Welsh Assembly. I may be excessively naive but eventually someone might start paying attention to problems of institutional governance.

    Peter

  31. Dr. Anwen Says:

    I have heard from my source that Mark Brake claimed to have a PhD on his application to become a fellow of the Institute of Physics, a fellowship which he resigned in late 2009 when they mounted an investigation into his application.

    He became a fellow of the IoP (and so presumably submitted his application) AFTER he lied about having a PhD on the grant proposal in 2006, and AFTER he should have been disciplined for that action in 2007 when it was first brought to Dr. Rhobert Lewis’ attention.

    Scandalous….

  32. Dr. Anwen Says:

    My source has recently told me that not only did the ex-Vice Chancellor know about Mark Brake’s wrongdoings, and chose to cover it all up, but apparently so did the current Vice Chancellor Julie Lydon.

    Apparently, when she was Pro-VC, she was fully informed of the allegations that ex-Professor Brake had lied about his qualifications on a grant proposal (along with other allegations). Along with the rest of the University, she covered it up, presumably hoping the scandal would stay hidden.

    I wonder if HEFCW and/or the Welsh Assmebly Minister for Education, Leighton Andrews, are aware of this?

  33. Fred the shed Says:

    I notice that ex-professor Brake is still using his “prof” title on his twitter account – @profmbrake. It seems that, even some 18 months on from his dismissal from Glamorgan, he still likes to misrepresent himself.

    Once a liar, always a liar?

  34. [...] claimed to have a PhD when applying for a grant in 2006 and whose professorship at Glamorgan was terminated in mysterious circumstances in 2010. Old habits die hard, clearly… Professor Yes? Dr No Eco World Content From Across [...]

  35. A few weeks ago I saw a really OTT poncey black range rover (the kind that would feature in Touchwood) emblazoned with Dark Sky Wales in silver writing with stars. My first though was I bet that’s Brake. Sure enough one Google later I discovered it was.

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