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Millot: Professional Ethics on Holiday from EdSector? (II)


As a critical consumer of policy studies, I'm sensitive to analysis on behalf of advocacy. But until I saw the difference between Sweating and Growing, I never thought EdSector reports would cut inconvenient facts rather than address them head on. Surely there is a principled counter-argument for the viability of CMO finances and the underlying business model. I still prefer to believe that this fiasco is an aberration rather than evidence of a pattern.

The further I get into AERA’s ethical code, the more I'm convinced that EdSector's current communications strategy – the editing process was "not... out of the ordinary," we’ve done absolutely nothing wrong, and those who differ are confused, mercenary, disgruntled or mean – is counterproductive.

Mistakes were made. EdSector would be much better off if incoming board chair Margaret (Macke) Raymond and Publisher Andrew Rotherman issued a statement saying as much, announcing that Kim Smith has decided to leave the board in the best interest of EdSector, and noting that the nonprofit's Research Advisory Board has been asked to develop an ethics policy to guide future publications. The controversy would end immediately. Indeed, EdSector would look pretty good for policing itself when less confident organizations might stonewall.

Meanwhile, back to the salt mine, assessing this situation in light of AERA's ethical standards.....

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

AERA’s standards on Intellectual Ownership address the control and use of  researchers’ work products. The first requires acknowledgement of other work significantly relied on.

• EdSector Policy Director Kevin Carey, or whoever directed him to rewrite Toch’s Sweating as Growing, was under a professional obligation to acknowledge Toch and his draft report. Toch's decision not to sign on as the author of Growing is entirely permissible under the code, and completely irrelevant to this rule.  Remember that Toch refused to sign on because he does not consider Growing to be his work, but a bastardization of his efforts. Toch's decision does not excuse Carey or EdSector from acknowledging him as the author of Sweating, on which Carey and EdSector relied significantly to publish Growing.

This same standard states it is improper to use positions of authority to appropriate the work of others or claim credit for it.

• Surely all can agree Sweating was "appropriated" (i.e., taken) by EdSector and, particular in the absence of an individual author, that EdSector has claimed credit for the portion of Toch’s original that remains in Growing.

The second standard of this section’s clarifies the relationship between an author’s intellectual rights to his work and the financial or business relationship in which the work was produced.

While under suitable circumstances, ideas and other intellectual products may be viewed as commodities, arrangements concerning the production or distribution of ideas or other intellectual products must be consistent with academic freedom and the appropriate availability of intellectual products to scholars, students, and the public. Moreover, when a conflict between the academic and scholarly purposes of intellectual production and profit from such production arise, preference should be given to the academic and scholarly purposes.

• EdSector states that it ceased working with Toch on the academic and scholarly purpose of Sweating/Growing because of an argument over compensation. On a practical level, the outcome of this business dispute could hardly have a material impact on EdSector’s financial condition. Whatever the merits of EdSector commercial case against Toch, denying him access to whatever rewriting was being done by Carey, violated the organization's ethical responsibilities. This is especially true given that EdSector planned to, and did, present Toch with a final copy just prior to release, in the hope he would sign on to Growing as author. It looks like EdSector was withholding money to influence Toch to accept the nonprofit's preferred publishing outcome, and this is not permitted under the code.

Next: Ethics in the Review Process


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it's interesting how differently people react to this:

jaye green doesn't think it's such a big deal, according to this post:


but then he doesn't hold think tanks in very high esteem, either:


"It looks like EdSector was withholding money to influence Toch to accept the nonprofit's preferred publishing outcome, and this is not permitted under the code."

You're just making stuff up now. Maybe Mark Dean Millot took a sackful of money from charter opponents in exchange for attacking the think tanks and foundations he once sued! Both statements have equal levels of evidence behind them: none.

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