The Mark Brake Story

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

In case you missed the story first time, Professor Mark Brake (he of the absurdly glowing wikipedia page) falsely represented his qualifications when applying for a research grant in 2006. For some reason, his employer – the University of Glamorgan – did not take the appropriate action of dismissing him for gross misconduct, but instead sacked the person responsible for drawing it to their attention. These are the facts as reported in the Times Higher Education Supplement which I commented on in my second post on this saga a few weeks ago.

The reason for posting about it again is that the Times Higher article is attracting a truly phenomenal number of comments (nearly 600 at the last count). These, roughly speaking, divide into two camps. The first set (including 4 comments by myself under my own name) comprises comments from people dismayed by the fact that Professor Brake’s misconduct appears not to have been investigated properly by the UoG and suggestions that this episode will reflect badly on academia generally unless  it can be sorted out promptly.

The second camp appears to consist of a small number of individuals posting abusively mocking comments under a variety of silly pseudonyms who are clearly attempting to draw attention away from the allegations against Professor Brake. It seems to me to be a very high probability that the culprit himself is behind many of the more absurd comments on the thread. I have been informed by someone working for the University of Glamorgan that Brake has been expressly forbidden to comment on this story, but that the UoG has taken no steps whatsoever to investigate whether he is doing so. In the meantime, contrary to promises made by their press contact to the THES, the UoG  have not yet made any attempt investigate the original misconduct. To quote from a comment I put on the thread myself:

I wish I shared the confidence of some other posters in the willingness of the UoG to treat this matter with appropriate seriousness. I think it is more likely that their “investigation” involves keeping their eyes firmly closed and not opening them unless and until a third party drops a load of direct evidence on their head. The longer they continue to ignore the ongoing misconduct of their own employees, including their abusive posts on this thread, the further the reputation of the University of Glamorgan is tarnished.

Since I revealed that I  that passed the Wales Online story onto the Times Higher, a number of things have happened which I can’t comment on for legal reasons. These events have left me very doubtful that the University of Glamorgan intends to investigate this matter at all and wishes instead that it will all blow over.

Of course readers of this blog can form their own opinions about the importance of this case and/or my interpretation of the facts but, based on what I know, I have drawn the conclusion that it is very important that this matter is not allowed to fade away. For one thing, the professorial salary of this individual is funded by the taxpayer….

I therefore intend to keep posting comments on the THES in support of academic standards and against academic misconduct until something is done. I invite any readers that agree with me to post their comments on the THES thread.

If representatives of the University of Glamorgan or any individual or organization feels I have misrepresented any aspect of this case or if you disagree with me for any other reason, or simply wish to comment, please feel free to express your thoughts through the box below.

STOP PRESS: The Times Higher appears to have closed the thread on this story for reasons not explained. You may still comment here of course.

27 Responses to “The Mark Brake Story”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    Peter,

    Who *would* be the appropriate body to investigate this issue, and who could (should!) appoint it to do so?

    Anton

  2. Anton,

    If it’s a criminal matter then obviously it’s for the police. It seems to me reasonable to have expected the UoG to refer the matter to the Police when it first came to their attention but they didn’t do so. One of the problems is that senior members of the UoG also signed the application so perhaps they might be seen as being parties to the original deception. I don’t know.

    Whether or not the police should be involved, I do think that cases like this – and others that I am familiar with – cast serious doubt on whether universities are willing or able to investigate properly serious misconduct committed by their staff.

    I have a feeling that very often a so-called “imvestigation” amounts to nothing more than a quiet chat over a cup of coffee between the culprit and a fellow staff-member along the lines of

    “Did you do it?”

    “No.”

    “Oh that’s all right then.”

    And all other evidence is quietly suppressed.

    Perhaps there should be some sort of system whereby people from other organizations do this?

    Peter

  3. Surely, even in the UK, if it is a criminal offence, as opposed to a misdemeanor or whatever the appropriate legal term is, any citizen can a) point this out to the police and b) has a right to expect that an investigation be performed and be informed of the outcome.

    “Since I revealed that I that passed the Wales Online story onto the Times Higher, a number of things have happened which I can’t comment on for legal reasons.”

    If you need a safe haven, I have an extra mattress in my house. 😐

    • telescoper Says:

      PS to Phillip, Thanks for the offer of a “safe haven”. I think there may be a person in South Wales who is very tempted to do a runner from this, but it certainly isn’t me.

  4. telescoper Says:

    Phillip,

    I don’t know whether there is a criminal matter or not. I’m no lawyer. But as I mentioned in a previous post, a layman’s reading of the relevant act certainly suggests it is. That’s the basis on which I reported the matter to the police. I received a reply from the Chief Superintendent of the relevant division of the South Wales Police telling me it would be investigated. That was on 2nd November. I haven’t heard anything since, but such investigations probably take a considerable time to complete and I have every confidence they will inform me when it is over.

    Peter

  5. Rhodri Evans Says:

    I believe there are others who have also referred this matter to the Police and HEFCW.

  6. Anton Garrett Says:

    The police already devote too much time to persecuting motorists (who never intend to harm anybody) and over-enforcing politically correct legislation that suppresses free speech, when they should be deterring and catching burglars and muggers. I see the tactical point of reporting Brake so as to put pressure on U Glamorgan, but generally I’d hope that matters like this could be dealt with by throttling funding until meaningful action is taken by the institution involved.

    Peter invited people to comment on the THES thread. I’d like to lend support to the suggestion made on that thread (by the pseudonym “Ha Ha, PhD”) that people – especially academics – write to the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glamorgan. He is

    Professor David Halton, Vice-Chancellor
    University of Glamorgan
    Pontypridd CF37 1DL

    Hand-signed letters are taken much more seriously by organisations than emails are. Professor Halton might reasonably be asked what action was taken against Brake when this was discovered in 2006; was the investigation made by anybody who counter-signed the grant application form; is this the first time Mark Brake has done this; who is now looking into it and when will they report?

    Anton

  7. Rhodri Evans Says:

    Anton – when I reported this to Brake’s line manager in May 2006 it was dealt with by the line manager – a Dr. Rhob Lewis. There was no formal investigation, the whole thing was just swept under the carpet. Brake denied any wrong doing, at the time saying he had “forgotten” that he did not have a PhD. He has since revised his excuse as, according to Dr. Paul Roche, Brake said in a conversation with him a few weeks ago that the PhD had been added by someone else after he had submitted his part of the application!

  8. Rhodri Evans Says:

    The original deception was in May 2006. I reported it to Brake’s line manager Dr Rhob Lewis. Contrary to UoG regulations my written complaint was dealt with informally and Brake at the time apparently said that he’d forgotten that he didn’t have a PhD (as one does). In my disciplinary hearing he had a different excuse-that he’d only ever claimed to have studied for a PhD. Most recently he’s been telling Dr Paul Roche that the claim of the PhD was added by someone else. As my complaint of May 2006 was dealt with informally I raised the matter in late 2007 with Donna Mead, Dean of the faculty of Health, Science and Sport and with the University Secretary. Both told me that the matter had been dealt with by Dr Rhob Lewis in May 2006 and they would take no further action.

  9. Anton Garrett Says:

    Rhodri,

    Appalling. I can’t imagine why Paul Roche wished to return to this cesspit, but I hope he can begin to clean it up as an insider.

    Anton

  10. 28,567 deaths or serious injuries on the roads last year, but I suppose that’s all right because motorists don’t intend anyone any harm? Piffle. Negligent vehicular homicide is as criminal as any other method of killing people, and many times more deadly.
    Much crime is done with the best intentions in the world…

  11. telescoper Says:

    Thomas…not sure what your point is. Care to elaborate? Which particular crime are you talking about?

  12. He’s referring to the comment above by Anton Garrett:
    “The police already devote too much time to persecuting motorists”.

  13. […] In the Dark A blog about the Universe, and all that surrounds it « The Mark Brake Story […]

  14. Anton Garrett Says:

    Gents

    Motive should be taken into account is what I meant (and still do).

    Anton

  15. […] 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 comments might be […]

  16. Paul roche Says:

    Just a quick update to say that I have had no news of the investigation that Glamorgan said they would do into the actions taken against Prof Brake in 2006 when his false PhD claim was first made known to them. I will continue to try and find out what has happened with regard to this matter, as it seems that all sorts of related issues have also been opened up, and a number of people have contacted the police.

    In the meantime, I continue to work at Glamorgan and trust that they will do as they promised in their statements to the press. There are current students still studying on the Astronomy course there that I want to see through their studies. The impact on the students has been overlooked in many aspects of this sorry tale, and I am determined to do the best I can for those that remain on the current degree programme.

  17. […] Truth, Lies and Wikipedia I think it’s time 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 through a story in the Western Mail, it was covered in the Times Higher, and I also blogged about it here. […]

  18. […] 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 […]

  19. One of the main problems that UOG suffers from is nepotism. How many of their own employees are the product of some form of UOG education? The guy whose name is Rhob Lewis is certainly one such example and like Mr. Brake comes from the UOG caste system - so hardly suprising matters relating to false claims were not dealt with properly by Rhob Lewis- indolence was the preffered UOG option.  As an interesting twist to whether Mr. Brake conducted a criminal offence, Rhob Lewis is an ex-police officer, perhaps he can advise about whether Mr. Brake conducted a criminal offence? Still nowt worse than a bent copper.

  20. telescoper Says:

    You seem to be excessively spaced out, Mark.

  21. […] Look-alikes, No. 31 I’m struck by the fact that “Dr” Mark Brake looks very much like actor Antony Sher, one of whose most celebrated roles was as Howard Kirk in […]

  22. It seems to me that there are some older issues here which have been set aside. The first is that when a job is applied for references are usually taken up and credentials checked. I know that UoG routinely did this in most if not all cases. Why not here? And his old Cardiff department was certainly aware the whole time that he had not completed the PhD so why would they not have notified a neighboring university at least through back channels that there was a serious issue? There are faults all around and both universities as well as the person who misrepresented himself deserve to be embarrassed.

    As one commentator says, the forgotten victims here are the students who lost out in the poor example set by a guy who was otherwise often a fine teacher and imaginative administrator. They lost out due to a deception, due to the furore and ill feeling created which disturbed the work of a centre and a research community for far too long, and possibly in the case of postgrads by the taint on their old department or in some cases their supervisor.

    • telescoper Says:

      I don ‘t think Cardiff University knew that Brake was claiming to have a PhD from there. How would they know what he was writing on grant applications when he was employed at another institution? My understanding of the situation is that when Brake’s misrepresentation came to light, Cardiff made it quite clear that Brake had no such qualification. I know I am not unbiased because I work it Cardiff, but I really can’t see how any blame is attached to my employer through this sorry episode.

  23. telescoper Says:

    I remind potential commenters that I do not accept abusive comments on this blog.

  24. […] and science communicator” Mr Mark Brake (alias “@ProfMBrake”  on Twitter) and Mr Mark  Brake the disgraced former University of Glamorgan employee who falsely claimed to have a PhD when […]

  25. I was a student on the astronomy course back then (2005-2008) and then I went on to do my MSc in science communication. The impact on the students of Rhodri leaving was felt for a long time and nothing seemed the same after that. We all liked Mark but I think the trust was gone after we all found out (he would go on to teach me on my Masters)

    I know a lot of us felt cheated at the time by not only loosing a great teacher in Rhodri , but people whom we looked up to never appeared the same.

    It was a very sad time all round

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