Helmuth Nyborg is a Professor of Psychology in Denmark who does psychometric research and publishes widely (about 97 papers) in peer-reviewed international journals. He is a firm proponent of the genes plus environment view of human behaviour. He has fallen foul of the environment-only view, to which I will give the appellation “blank slate-ism”.
He has just been stitched up by three critics in one of the The Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty which lurk in The Ministry of Science, Innovation, and Higher Education. In the midst of all this horrible nonsense, which has already caused him a lot of trouble and cost him his Emeritus status, I cannot help but be distracted by the funny names education departments give themselves. Innovation? I suppose a Committee for Public Safety is an innovation for Denmark, but the Jacobin terror got there first.
The three pursuers have found him guilty of two crimes: “that the defendant had committed scientific dishonesty by appearing as the sole author of an article and by including a reference which did not support the data it indicated to support.” There is no appeal allowed. Helmut writes to me, in great detail poor fellow, showing that he offered co-authorship to a colleague who did not accept it, and that the reference was to the correct dataset, but should have included a note on a technical correction about birth rate projections which makes no real difference to the results. You can get the very much fuller account from him (see email address below). I shudder to think what this committee could do to any authors of any published paper if it classifies omissions of this sort as “scientific dishonesty”.
Is there a back story? Yes, Helmuth got on the wrong side of a colleague at his university. They applied for the same job years ago. The other guy got the job. Helmut, who had 40 publications at that stage, which was far more than the other candidate, protested. They have been on very poor terms ever since. Incredibly, this guy was one of the three members of the committee. The other two are also on public record as being hostile to him. Publication rates for two of them are 0 and 0, and 32 for the other one, so he is hardly up against stellar scholars.
More of a back story? Helmuth thinks we are going to the dogs in a hand cart, and that we are showing dysgenic fertility in the sense of reverse Darwinian selection. All this is possible, and the impact on nations depends on assumptions about birth rates and intelligence in the next decades, but it is not a popular story in some quarters.
More back story? Helmuth is unusual in psychology, in that he had a period in his life when he had a real job. He was a sailor on merchant ships, and on the long sea journeys began to catch up on an education he had never had as a young man. He went into psychology and made a new career for himself, initially in the perception of the rod and frame illusion and later in more general behavioural differences. He still has some of the blunt manners of a man who gets things done. I would let him captain my ship through pirate waters, but I would not elect him to be Chairman of the Diplomatic Committee for the Management of Academic Sensibilities and Polite Evasions (and Innovation).
Is there even more of a back story? This has the stink of a common room feud. Has your institution ever had such a thing? Of course not, but surely if you are being tried for your academic life you deserve to appear before an unbiased set of assessors, and have full legal representation, and not be judged by accusers who have strongly opposed positions in their politics and world outlook, and have personal animosities to boot.
So, there are two people you need to contact to get their side of the story and to send emails of comment.
One is a professor who has retired from his university, and continues to publish work in psychometry, who would like your support, and who wants to show you his defence. Here is his website which lists his publications: http://www.helmuthnyborg.dk/ The Wikipedia entry on him is frequently hacked by his critics, so is not reliable.
The other is a politician, to whom you might like to write, urging him first to publish the judgment in English, the international language of science, so that we can read this extraordinary Court judgment; but most of all to urge him to let academics sort out their differences in academic journals, where claim and counter-claim can be evaluated in the usual fashion.
Morten Østergaard, Minister for Research, Innovation, and Higher Education, Denmark
Odd world, isn’t it!