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Re: Museum oversight

>Michael Schmidt (dmschmidt@sprint.ca) wonders:
>> What I would really like to see is an honest answer to who, exactly,
>> polices academics and these so called professionals??
>Most museums have boards of directors which establish policies and
>attempt to ensure that those policies are carried out.  In the United
>States they are helped by organizations such as the American
>Association of Museums.  You might want to look at their Museum
>Assessment Program:

To this, I would only add that universities and granting agencies also have
oversight committees of some sort.  These often exist at multiple levels;
in a large university, there may be governing boards at the departmental,
collegiate, university, and (for multiple-campus universities) system
level.  Good luck getting an NSF (or non-US equivalent) grant if seriously
nonprofessional behavior becomes known.  Blatant dishonesty can be rewarded
by loss of funds or even dismissal; at the very least, the offending
professional is humiliated in the eyes of other professionals.

In a field where paychecks aren't high such as paleontology, professional
esteem counts for a lot - with few exceptions, the fear of being known as a
jackdonkey is very powerful.  My name goes on my papers.  If I do anything
dishonest, it tarnishes not only my work, but my name.  I see my colleagues
at various times during the year, and there aren't very many of us; if I've
done something unprofessional, everyone will know (and worse, I will know
if everyone knows).  In other words, SVP can either be a great time with
friends or a rough time with accusors.

I am not saying that we pros are all angels.  Believe me, the wrongs done
by our fellow professionals get as much time over beer (if not most of the
time!) at SVP as do the rights.  (Which is common sense - the wrongs make
for better storytelling.)  I generally avoid discussing specific known
cases of unangelic behavior among my fellow professionals on this list for
a variety of reasons (I'm sure other professionals here do the same thing);
like any other line of work, from medicine to the priesthood, there will be
people who should not be involved.  But there are ways of keeping their
numbers at a minimum.

One of the biggest myths out there is that tenured professors/curators can
do whatever they want with no danger of retribution.  Wrong.  I will not
pretend the tenure system is perfect, but academic dishonesty is grounds
for firing a tenured individual.

I echo what Mickey said elsewhere - if an academic is seen doing something
unethical, blow the whistle.  You'd be doing all of us a favor - really.
(But don't necessarily do it on this list!)


Christopher A. Brochu
Department of Geology
Field Museum
1400 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605

phone 312-665-7633
fax 312-665-7641
electronic cbrochu@fmppr.fmnh.org