Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Hendrik Schon Loses His PhD

A name from the past has resurfaced.

Jon Hendrik Schon, who was embroiled in a major scandal for falsifying data while he was at Bell Labs several years ago, has lost his suit against his former university. The latter revoked the PhD degree that it awarded to Schon.

A German court has ruled that it is legal to revoke the Ph.D. of disgraced physicist Jan Hendrik Schön. Schön was the center of a spectacular scandal in 2002, and the University of Konstanz revoked his Ph.D. in 2004. Although a university investigation turned up no evidence that Schön had committed misconduct while at the university, university officials asked Schön to return his doctoral certificate based on a state law that allows degrees to be revoked when the recipient proves "unworthy." Schön was found to have faked data in at least 17 papers while he was a researcher at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey. 
Oh well. Not sure if this will end the sad history of this debacle, but I sure hope so. Still, while he may lose his PhD degree, he still has his undergraduate physics degree and thus, still eligible to be nominated for my "Most Attractive Physicist" contest, no? :)

Oh, one more thing. It is interesting to note that Malcolm Beasley, who headed the inquiry panel for Bell Labs to investigate this scandal, has just been elected Vice President of the APS, in line for the society's Presidency in a couple of years.



Pi-Guy said...

I'm a bit ambivalent about this sort of thing. Schon is guilty as sin itself of fakery at Bell Labs. On the other hand, his degree was conferred to certify that he fulfilled the School's doctorate program. No matter what he did at Bell, he did earn a PhD. He's worthy of his degree because he did the work to earn it.

Fraud is a no-no, but he didn't defraud the University. I'm not all that comfortable with the prospect that my alma mater in some sense owns me after I've already payed my dues.

TheDude said...

I'm not at all ambivalent about it. Attempting to revoke his Ph.D. is petty. U. Konstanz just doesn't want the biggest (and dumbest -- who the hell uses the same sine wave to fake everything?) scientific fraud of our time walking around with their pedigree.

But boo-hoo for U.Konstanz. Schon completed his doctoral work and was granted the degree. He won't get any serious scientific work (i.e., FUNDING) even IF he first does a massive mea-culpa and works as a janitor at the Planck Institute for a few years as penance.

It doesn't damage U.Konstanz one bit that their "child" went bad. They don't get the privilege of disowning him, just as a parent cannot strip a bad child of his or her family (sur)name.

TheDude said...

Also, why cast that barely-hidden innuendo at Beasley? I'm sure he was already enough of a rising-star in the APS to get the job heading the inquiry -- a job that required the selection of someone who would be viewed as beyond reproach.

Perhaps, as you're hinting, Beasley IS getting this promo BECAUSE of his work on the Schon investigation. Fine. Good. That's a feather in his cap to have put in the time to kick out this fraud who embarrasses everyone in the scientific community.

So I have no problems with Beasley's ascension, even IF it's somewhat related to this. I feel like you're hinting that Beasley stepped on Schon to get ahead. No way.

Schon stepped on himself. Beasley just did us all the favor of taking out the smelly trash. And I applaud him for it.

ZapperZ said...

What "hidden innuendo"? It must be so well-hidden that you are the only one who found it.

I like Mac Beasley! I even vote for him in the last APS election!

So retract your claws, and go scratch someone else's eyes out!