There is a remarkably cosy family atmosphere at Cardiff Business School. Nigel Piercy, professor of marketing and strategy at the business school, works closely with his wife, senior research assistant Nicarla Lane.
A regular contributor to Professor Piercy's Journal of Strategic Marketing is Pierre Berthon, senior research fellow at the business school. His new research assistant is Jean-Paul Berthon, his brother.
The university said that these appointments "were filled in complete accordance with the rigorous appointment procedures operated in the university". There were national advertisements, external references and the interview panels "did not include anyone who had any sort of relationship with the candidates", the university said. The sibling relationship, the university said, is "beyond reproach", because Jean-Paul and Pierre Berthon "conduct joint academic research and are each, in their own right, active contributors to research into online retailing".
But some university staff have queried Jean-Paul Berthon's credentials. He has a 2:2 degree in history and civilisation. The university said his "subsequent professional experience" is more important - this includes semi-professional occasional work as a musician, and being a one-time marketing consultant.
Despite this, the university is "confident" that Jean-Paul "is able to demonstrate an appropriate level of academic research contribution". The university cites a credit in the Journal of Strategic Marketing. Indeed, Jean-Paul Berthon is listed as a contributor to a research paper, "Evaluating Industry Web Sites", in the journal. But the journal issue in question is a special issue - with guest editor Pierre Berthon.
In fact, Pierre is the lead author of the paper, in which seven contributors are listed. Jean-Paul appears as the third author. Further citations for Jean-Paul in journal articles are almost all multi-authored works, and most include citations for Pierre first.
But as the university said: "The individual profiles of more than 400 research staff do not conform to a single pattern. Some hold higher degrees, some do not. Some bring practical experience, some do not."