Over the last few weeks there has been an ongoing campaign to discredit Cllr Simon Moores online, as another a local businessman I don’t like this very much, for one thing it could spread to other local businessmen including me.
Before I get going on this there are a few things that I should like to make clear so here goes:
1 I don’t agree with all of Simon’s views political or otherwise, in fact I can’t think of anyone whose views I agree with completely, on or of the internet.
2 Simon’s business activities that relate to IT bring a net benefit to Thanet, by this I mean that when he makes money for consultancy and media work outside of Thanet he is likely to spend that money in Thanet, in much the same way that when I post a book of to some other part of the world I am likely to spend the money I receive for it in Thanet.
3 I am likely to come to the defence of any prominent local, regardless of their political affinities, race, religion, etc.
Most of the online criticism here comes from fellow councillor Mark Nottingham’s Blog and anonymous comment on it, see:
I hasten to add here that I would come to Mark’s defence were the roles reversed.
At some point the political banter on the blogs between Mark and Simon that I was enjoying seemed to change to something much less pleasant.
Anyway questions have been raised both about the validity of Simon’s qualifications and credentials as an IT expert and about his Wikipedia entry, so I have done some research, concentrating on his doctorate and Wikipedia, here are the results.
First the doctorate.
It isn’t a bad rule of thumb to assume the higher the educational level attained the harder it is to quantify, (matters become more subjective and less objective) although this is easier in the sciences than the arts, as on the whole in the sciences the proof of the pudding is usually having something that works. With IT this is often easy for the end user to spot, by this I mean if you type Charles Dickens into a book search facility on your computer you don’t expect the Harry Potter books to come up, if they do regardless of the supposed qualifications of IT expert involved you don’t really need many qualifications to judge their worth.
Doctorates are generally awarded to those who have published academic works of some merit, with a fair amount of work it is possible to get an academic book published by a reputable publisher. Simon’s doctorate is mostly based on the following publications.
The Journal of The Institute of Information Scientists (IIS) journal Vol.2. No#2 ISSN 0969-9325 1994
Title details: Using Lotus 1-2-3 : Release 3.0 / Simon Moores.
Published: New York ; London : Prentice Hall, 1989.
Physical desc.: x,210p. : ill. ; 24cm. Identifier: ISBN: 0135405017 (pbk)
Subject: Lotus 1-2-3 (Computer program)
Microcomputer systems — Spreadsheet packages — Lotus 123
Copies held by: British Library.
For those of you unfamiliar with this world Simon was awarded a doctorate by Pacific Western University in 1994 based on his thesis about computing published in “The Journal of The Institute of Information Scientists” this work then progressed into a mainstream publishers book on the same subject.
As far as I can tell at this time there would have been no reason for Simon to assume this university was better or worse than any other, it offered a stage in Simon’s education in a way that fitted in with his life.
Pacific Western University was founded in 1977 it is still functioning as an accredited university under the name of California Miramar University, it had a bit of a bumpy ride between 2002 and 2005 when the authenticity of some of the qualifications it had provided was questioned.
This culminated in a newspaper article in The Irish Independent the following is from the Wikipedia article on the subject:
“It was reported in the Irish Independent on 9 October 2005 that the Chief Science Advisor to the government of Ireland, Barry McSweeney, had been found to have advanced his career using a degree obtained from Pacific Western University.
The newspaper report stated that McSweeney had obtained his Ph.D. in biotechnology and biochemistry from PWU in 1994 after just 12 months of study. The article went on to say "There is no question that Mr McSweeney has anything other than a distinguished track record in business. He has a degree in biochemistry from UCC and a Masters degree in clinical biochemistry from TCD. He was also in charge of the Marie Curie Fellowships, an EU-wide programme which has been credited with helping more than 35,000 scientists develop their careers. Mr McSweeney has been widely praised for his role in expanding this programme." It further described PWU as having "no merit or standing in the academic world" and having been "the subject of numerous official investigations, state bans and media exposés" during its 28 years of operation. McSweeney was forced to resign his position as a result although the article stated that McSweeney had made no attempt to conceal the details of his education and that he was "proud" of his doctorate and "stood over it" and that he considered PWU California to be a "respected" and recognized body." Mr McSweeny's spokesperson went on to add: "Barry stands over his doctorate.....He has a degree from UCC, significant life experience, and was the director-general of the Joint Research Institute. I can't believe you're writing this."”
So there you have it Simon did the work, thesis and book were published along the way a university handed him a doctorate, he went on to a career in IT advising governments appearing on the BBC and channel 4, from a more professional standpoint his work was held in high regard by companies like Lotus and IBM so more publications came along.
Looking on the web at Simon’s recent articles, something that you can all do if you want, he is obviously moving on from IT something he describes as no fun anymore and I am inclined to agree with him.
I have spoken to various people I know in the academic world about the legitimacy of doctorates issued by various universities, the consensus being that all is not well even in the most famous universities, my attention was drawn to a Euronews article at http://www.euronews.net/2009/08/23/bribes-scandal-hits-german-universities/ copied below in case they delete it:
“Germany’s famed reputation for educational excellence has been hit by a scandal over degrees for sale. Prosecutors are investigating up to one hundred professors suspected of taking bribes to help students get their doctorates. It’s claimed some students paid an intermediary up to 20,000 euros for their Ph.Ds.
“All disciplines are involved, including the so-called classics: law, medicine and philosophy, as well as technical faculties,” said prosecutor Gunther Feld.
A company near Cologne allegedly acted as a go-between. The impressive-sounding Institute for Scientific Consulting is said to have funnelled students’ cash to professors in exchange for degrees. Most of the professors under suspicion work under contract rather than as full-time teachers. Some are even accused of improving students’ work themselves if it was not up to scratch.
“For several years now we have proposed adding new rules obliging students to declare that they haven’t accepted outside help in writing their thesis,” said Bernhard Kempen from the German Universities’ Association.
The latest investigation was sparked by the jailing last year of a professor at Hannover University who took bribes worth 180,000 euros from the Cologne institute to organise degrees for allegedly unworthy students.”
Now we come to Wikipedia.
For their recently deleted article about Simon click on the link http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/simon/ as far as I can see back in the early days of Wikipedia Simon like many other prominent characters put his potted biography on it and as this was early days when Wikipedia was looking for content the editors were quite happy about this.
Simon was quite transparent about this being autobiographical and I would imagine having added to Wikipedia both with the information about himself and various other subjects like the rest of us who add to the internet he forgot about it and got on with something else.
The problem with Wikipedia is that anyone could become an editor, by this I mean that I could for example sign on as editor "Mickey Mouse" and list Robbie Williams as “eating hamsters for a living in and around Stoke" or sign on as editor "Alan Titchmarsh", the green-fingered TV personality, write an update of the Kama Sutra.
I could also add that the teenage Tony Blair had posters of Hitler on his bedroom wall.
Not only people have been victims one editor of Wikipedia described the village of Denshaw in Greater Manchester as "the home to an obese population of sun-starved, sheep-hurling yokels with a brothel for a pub and a lingering tapeworm infection".
All of these hoaxes actually happened, I should like to point out that I wasn’t guilty and despite the temptation I haven’t edited any of the entries on any of the local towns or people.
The senior editors of Wikipedia have made efforts to make the whole thing more, dignified, accountable I don’t really know the right word here, things were not helped much when senior editor Ryan Jordan, who had edited more than 20,000 pages of information and had claimed to be a professor of theology was exposed as a 24-year-old college dropout from Kentucky.
What they did was try and make the whole thing link to provable facts, I think what they meant here was links to other internet pages that said the same thing, frankly it didn’t work that well.
Anyway the bottom line here is that anyone can quite legitimately go over almost any Wikipedia article flooding it with things like “citation required” and make a perfectly normal article look like a pack of lies.
This is what happened to Simon’s entry prior to its deletion something, which I would imagine, was a considerable relief to Simon