Dr? No: Glamorgan scientist falsely claimed PhD

October 29, 2009

A prominent Welsh scientist falsely claimed in a grant application that he held a doctorate, it has emerged.

Mark Brake, director of the Centre for Astronomy and Science Education at the University of Glamorgan, included the reference to a PhD in an application for a £285,264 grant from the Research Councils' Procurement Organisation, submitted in May 2006.

The education appendices of the application form include the statement "PhD (Wales), Astrophysics: Chemical Evolution of the Galaxies, University College Cardiff" alongside the academic's other qualifications. The funding application, for a "researcher-in-residence" grant, was unsuccessful.

University College Cardiff is the former name of Cardiff University, which said it had no record of awarding a PhD to the scholar.

However, a spokesman added that "a Mark Brake was awarded an MSc in 1988 under the title: 'Studies of photometric evolution of stellar populations in galaxies'."

Times Higher Education understands that Paul Roche, who co-founded the Centre for Astronomy and Science Education with Professor Brake, resigned in 2003 in protest over his colleague's management of the centre, its teaching standards and the content of its astronomy BSc.

Dr Roche moved the Faulkes Telescope Project to Cardiff, along with his team of three staff.

The academic who succeeded Dr Roche at Glamorgan also fell out with Professor Brake, and faced disciplinary proceedings for harassing him after the professor filed a formal grievance. He was dismissed in late 2007.

The academic's allegations about Professor Brake's qualifications formed part of the harassment proceedings. The allegations are now being reviewed by Glamorgan to ensure that the investigation was conducted fairly.

Michael Disney, emeritus professor of astronomy at Cardiff, wrote to Glamorgan during the disciplinary proceedings.

In his letter, seen by Times Higher Education, he says his department had been astounded by Professor Brake's appointment at Glamorgan.

"Mr Brake failed his PhD here largely because he was famously known as 'the phantom student'," he writes.

"Although known to me by name, I never recall seeing him once in the three to four years he must have been enrolled here - when I was the most frequent lecturer of postgraduate students."

A Glamorgan spokeswoman said: "The academic credibility of staff is something of which the university is very proud, and allegations to the contrary are taken seriously.

"This particular allegation was brought to the attention of the school in 2006, and the matter was dealt with in the appropriate way by the individual's line manager."

The spokeswoman added: "This was an isolated incident, and the university has subsequently revised its grant-application vetting processes."

She said that all allegations against Professor Brake had been investigated, but added: "The vice-chancellor has now appointed a senior member of staff to review what actions were taken at the time to ensure that the university's actions have been robust and fair to all parties."

Professor Brake declined to comment.

melanie.newman@tsleducation.com.

Update: 26 November 2009

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