Like the trams that ambled indifferently down Swanston Street, the weeks slid by.

By April’s end, Melbourne had shuffled off its final flare of summer warmth. Soon May would see the city turn decidedly autumnal: colder light, shorter days, chill winds and nights full of rain.

The leaves on campus outside my office window dried and dropped and drifted; soon to be swept aside like the soft laments of dead poets and lost souls. Winter was coming. Would spring be far away?

Can you please let us know if Simon responds?

Apart from a palpable sense that no news was bad news, the sounds of Simon’s silence were impossible to parse. Clearly he had found my lack of faith disturbing. (And in this he was far from alone – as I would learn the following year.)

But if I still hadn’t yet addressed the Journal complaint, what exactly was the problem? Was he mute with admiration at my fact-checking skills? Unlikely. Had it gone without saying that he was now in furious agreement? Unlikely.

Or was this more a case of performative umbrage, to browbeat the Journal into banning publication? In that case, I might well have my work cut out … literally. It would also explain why my notes-in-reply now sounded like a series of soliloquies. Signifying nothing that could count as a sign of progress.

Waiting for Godot, indeed. And now with echoes of Groundhog Day. At the start, all this had been seen as no more than a storm in a teacup (at least, to Leo and Lynn). A mere phone call (?) to pressure the editor to prevail on the author to retract (Chapter 5).

But for T&F the legal risk still loomed, unfathomably large. Back in March (Chapter 7) I’d taken what Josh called a continuing threat of legal action as a sign that somewhere in London, the emails I’d seen had been taken too seriously. Who in a Centre like ours would ever want to go so far, to censor some wrong-headed view on OECD statistics?

Photo: Yousuf Karsh. Source: Wikipedia

I went back to the list of objections I’d read in early March (Chapter 5): it has always puzzled me why Geoff has persisted with that line of thought. It just isn’t intellectually tenable

I recalled then that I’d first raised the GDP growth problem – and the question of lies, damned lies and OECD comparisons – with Simon and Richard back in 2007. Simon had then pointed to other data that confirmed Australia’s funding decline at the time: Trend in 1995-2003 in absolute (constant prices) public funding per student … was negative and on this we are in the basement on the OECD comparison. That can’t be dismissed as an artefact of GDP growth … for the last two years OECD has singled out Australia as ‘odd country out’ for the extent to which public disinvestment has occurred. They have no vested interest obviously …

Since then our trend in spending had changed. And since then, he too had raised the question of selective uses of domestic data in policy advocacy, contrasting this with how impartial OECD reporting was: The OECD’s approach is overwhelmingly better … it’s like the difference between religious dogma and the enlightenment … it is a sign of the poor state of Australian policy debate that the Grattan report received far more attention than the OECD’s...

I went back to my midnight reply to Josh, two weeks earlier.

From: Geoff Sharrock
Sent: Friday, 25 March 2016 12:14 AM
To: Pitt, Josh
Cc: Yardley, Mia; Ian Dobson; Leo Goedegebuure
Subject: RE: CJHE 1150231: Beautiful lies JHEPM online and print editions – legal advice

Josh, Thanks again for forwarding your legal advice … Without having seen any detail of Marginson’s complaint to the journal, if some kind of defamation action did arise, it seems to me some ready defences are available … some of Marginson’s commentary has in fact been inaccurate, though the article usually does not point this out explicitly … I think the corrigendum approach is still the best, with space for a right of reply … Public debate in this area in Australia is pretty robust. Here, as I quoted in my recent email exchange with Marginson, is an example of Marginson’s own critique in The Australian of a Grattan Institute report in 2012 …

“THERE are two main approaches to the use of data in education policy research. In one school of thought the core objective is to mount the most compelling argument in support of predetermined goals. Before information is collected, the desired outcome is in place. The researcher (here an advocate) conducts selective studies and cherry-picks data from other studies, for facts that support the case … For the other school of thought, the core objective is to assemble a range of data throwing light on the realities of education, economy and society. Minds are open and data collection takes place at one remove from policy agendas …The first approach is taken by the Grattan Institute in its recent report … The second approach is used by the OECD in its annual publication Education at a Glance…”

… if one concern in Marginson’s complaint is about the article’s title, here was my response (in The Australian, in 2012) to the ensuing debate … This account of OECD comparisons provoked no outrage at all, as far as I can tell: 

“I HAVE been asked why I have argued against critics of the Grattan Institute’s Graduate Winners report, while professing to oppose the funding cuts and fee increases it advocates. While I don’t like the vibe of Graduate Winners it deserves a more serious debate. It can’t be refuted (or upheld) by invoking Education at a Glance, for several reasons. First, OECD nations finance higher education with very different mixes of public and private spending, so Education at a Glance editors must be agnostic regarding the best mix. Second, invoking OECD examples as best practice ignores our history of policy innovation. In the 1980s, John Dawkins did not return from an OECD trip to tell us that since HECS was all the rage in Paris, Australia must follow suit. Au contraire.

Third, despite the care Education at a Glance takes with its statistical tables, it’s clear that many countries are exceptional, working in local categories that don’t fit neatly into international ones … the risk of specious comparisons is high. Every so often, due to technical error or cherry-picking or both, we get lies, damned lies and OECD comparisons. Cherry-picking can arise when sectoral groups seek to promote better models, particularly better-funded ones, drawn from other countries. In the United States for example, education carries massive social freight in ethnically diverse, economically disparate communities. But even with local progress evident, authorities may be lobbied with OECD-based reports that show US metrics failing to match those of some tiny Nordic monoculture, famed for its surplus of civic virtue, social cohesion and crime fiction … Australia’s own tertiary sector setup is unusual enough to make such comparisons very tricky …”

In sum, all this looks like a massive over-reaction to me, and quite a bit of bluff. Regards, Geoff

Back in 2012, gentle reader, Julie Hare had been happy to publish Marginson’s critique of the Grattan report (as above); a response from its author Andrew Norton; my own critique of Marginson’s critique (which called for “better arguments” against the Grattan proposal); his subsequent reply to the Norton and Sharrock views; and my own follow-up reply (as above) in The Australian. This was after Leo had suggested that my call for better arguments might “raise eyebrows” in the wider university sector, and draw “flak from across the corridor”.

Since my midnight reply to Josh, T&F had raised no further complaint specifics. Nor drawn any from the paper itself. But what if, like Marginson and Hare (Chapter 9), T&F just hadn’t read my case closely enough? I went back to that March reply: presumably he doesn’t believe the relevance of international comparisons, only comparisons with the Grattan Institute!

In fact, my paper didn’t argue that OECD comparisons were irrelevant. Just that OECD data had been read too selectively in Australia. While no-one had raised it, perhaps the undiscussable problem here was my paper’s line on dogma, in a passage Bexley had described as breathtaking (Chapter 5). Writing it, I’d recalled Marginson’s critique of that Grattan report. And was struck by the irony: however impartially assembled, OECD metrics were still open to cherry-picking by our own sector’s funding advocates:

Comparing its ‘dogma’ with the ‘enlightenment’ of Education at a Glance, Marginson (2012) argued that “it is a sign of the poor state of Australian policy debate that the Grattan report received far more attention than the OECD’s. . . It would have us believe Australian higher education has nothing to learn from global comparisons. . .” The problem with this line of argument is that most OECD comparisons of the Australian situation take the form of unedifying factoids … It is as if Marginson’s own ‘dogma’ ate everyone else’s homework. Arguably, its over-reliance on international comparisons to frame funding debates left the Australian university sector poorly placed to respond in 2014 to flawed government proposals based in part on the Grattan Institute report … Marginson had sought to discredit. A better way to counter such proposals is to challenge their assumptions in the light of better Australian data … But this takes more time and effort than revisiting the same OECD tables for ‘headline’ metrics year after year; and it offers less scope for cosmopolitan impressionism…

Photo: Ethan Doyle White. Source: Wikimedia

Before taking leave at Easter, Josh had said they’d take my alternate view of what the Journal should do back to Legal: minor amendments, a footnote and a right of reply (Chapter 10). To keep Alex and Josh and Mia and Ian in the picture, I’d then forwarded my later internal notes at the Centre end of things (Chapter 8).

Can you please let us know if Simon responds?

From: Geoff Sharrock
Sent: Wednesday, 6 April 2016 3:44 PM
To: Lazzari, Alexandra; Pitt, Josh
Cc: Yardley, Mia; Ian Dobson; Leo Goedegebuure
Subject: RE: CJHE 1150231: Beautiful lies JHEPM – revised corrigendum 30 March

Alex, I’ve no response from Simon as yet, and I don’t really expect one. However as these messages are all cc’d to senior colleagues who have been party to the exchange, I hope my advice will have the desired effect. Here is today’s final advice to Simon (cc’d to Leo and others), which I suggest you pass on to your legal advisors to complete the picture. Regards, Geoff

(…In sum, while there are some minor details of analysis and expression in the paper that I hope to be able to amend, once again I stand by the article’s substantive critique and overall conclusions. From this and earlier messages, I hope it is also quite clear that the paper as it stands seeks to present an analysis of common fallacies, not a series of accusations of fraud. If you decide to reconsider the demand you have made, that the journal enforce a retraction of my article, I suggest you contact the editor Ian Dobson directly. Regards, Geoff)

Half an hour later, Alex replied: Thanks Geoff. I’ll pass this information on.

And then we waited. I got on with my other Institute work. I had classes to prepare. And I needed to keep on top of any new reports on HELP loan policy, to be ready for The Conversation (Chapter 11).

As the Institute co-owned the Journal, Leo had been in the loop with Josh and Ian. And also, of course, in the loop on my Centre exchanges with Marginson. Leo was treating the complaint as a matter for the Editor to handle. As Ian had said, it was now a specific request to the editor (Chapter 7).

But was the professor treating it as a complaint to the Editor? There had been no hint that Ian was in touch with him, at all. Nor had Ian offered any view on the T&F legal advice. By the weekend I’d heard nothing back from Marginson. No-one had any progress to report. By then it seemed clear that no matter how patiently we probed and pondered possibilities, Godot would never appear.

In my next note I suggested it was time for the Journal to contact the complainant.

From: Geoff Sharrock
Sent: Sunday, 10 April 2016 4:07 PM
To: Lazzari, Alexandra; Pitt, Josh
Cc: Yardley, Mia; Ian Dobson; Leo Goedegebuure
Subject: RE: CJHE 1150231: Beautiful lies JHEPM – revised corrigendum 30 March

Thanks Alex, To date (10 April) I’ve had no response from Simon. Once the legal advice is clear, and we have considered what, if any, amendments need to be made, and if so by what procedure, perhaps Ian can get back to Simon so see if he has modified his stance … Regards, Geoff

No-one replied. Another week slipped by. Still no sign of any contact with the complainant. And nothing more from T&F legal either.

I reflected that the sum of what I’d seen simply didn’t add up. Josh said no complaint had been made to T&F, directly. Ian said there were no specific complaints made to him in writing (Chapter 7). And Leo said he’d seen no formal approach to the Journal (Chapter 10). Why was T&F still treating an informal and unwritten (?) complaint as if litigation was a real and present danger?

At this point, gentle reader, some might infer that someone here was being hoodwinked. What if the Journal was handling a complaint raised with senior colleagues at the Centre after my own initial exchanges, that I wasn’t meant to see? One that Leo had quietly passed to the Editor, to treat as a complaint to the Journal – and keep the Centre uninvolved?

With hindsight, that would help explain being asked by Richard back in March for Glyn not to be copied into any further email. And Leo telling Josh that from the exchange of emails he’d been privy to (that Josh hadn’t seen?) the chance of Marginson consenting to publication were very slim indeed (Chapter 7). And Richard’s advice that as far as responding to Hare’s report was concerned, it was time for everyone to move on … further public commentary will simply draw attention to and inflame an already sorry situation. (Chapter 8).

Meanwhile, over most of March and April, I’d been responding on the basis that everything of any relevance had been disclosed. And at the same time, feeling more and more perplexed at being left in limbo, where no progress ever seemed possible. As that week ended, I followed up T&F again.

From: Geoff Sharrock
Sent: Friday, 15 April 2016 3:25 PM
To: Lazzari, Alexandra; Pitt, Josh
Cc: Yardley, Mia; Ian Dobson; Leo Goedegebuure
Subject: RE: CJHE 1150231: Beautiful lies JHEPM – revised corrigendum 30 March

Hi Alex, I have no further detail to offer at this end. Is there any update from your legal people about their view on this, or a view on the next steps from the publisher/editor point of view? Regards, Geoff

In effect, I’d been defending my work on two fronts – but mainly on the Journal front. Meanwhile, for T&F the bad media merely amplified their sense that, somehow, the suspect must be guilty. While Marginson had endorsed Hare’s view, her report had done the same for his complaint.

While I waited I recalled the Kylie Gould warning, that a misconduct complaint might also be made at the University. Well, I thought, at least then there’d be an open process ... The fact that on that front I hadn’t heard anything reinforced my first impression that the Journal complaint was frivolous: a bully-by-proxy power play to censor a view that no-one would debate on its merits. Aside from the Gould discussion, at that point I hadn’t found time to get specific legal advice. But by now the complaint had been hanging overhead for more than a month. And as with Hare’s refusal to let me reply in The Australian, it seemed not just vexatious, but malicious. Did verballing your suspect count as defamation?

By the time Alex replied it was Wednesday. I had a couple of two-hour webinars to deliver, with online groups of local and overseas students. Between sessions, I read the latest T&F response – then sighed in exasperation.

From: Lazzari, Alexandra
Sent: Wednesday, 20 April 2016 12:53 PM
To: Geoff Sharrock; Pitt, Josh
Cc: Yardley, Mia; Ian Dobson; Leo Goedegebuure
Subject: RE: CJHE 1150231: Beautiful lies JHEPM – revised corrigendum 30 March

Hi Geoff, We have been advised not to re-publish a revise without consent from Simon Marginson, so our next step will be to seek this directly. Will of course let you know how things proceed. Cheers, Alex

Seriously? In other words: the Editor won’t do anything; the complainant will make the decision. My inner farmboy had finally had a bloody gutful of the Journal’s bloody gutlessness. And I was sick of seeing bloody spanners dropped into my work. I hit my keyboard and cranked out a quick response – very roughly (I recall) as follows…

WTF, T&F??* FTSOS!!** GOTF!!*** Does the mere fact of feeling offended give professors the power to veto any view at odds with their own? With no more effort needed than an email or a phone call? If scholars think it’s OK to write each other off so readily – no right-of-reply or counter-argument necessary – why should any academic Journal give a flying Foucault about peer-reviewing papers in the first place?

Poised to hit Send, I paused. There was a more to be said. And looking at my watch, time was now short. I decided instead to take a walk and get some air, before my next webinar class at 2pm.

Both our classes that day went well enough. I’d prepared a long series of presentation slides, full of notes from the course readings. The aim with these was to canvas a range of ideas about the work and inner workings of universities. So: some policymaker and institutional challenges, from an OECD report on tertiary education and the knowledge society. A snapshot of Jamil Salmi’s ideas on resources, talent and governance in world class universities. A bit of Burton Clark, on the organisational dilemmas of entrepreneurial universities. A fun quote from Clark Kerr on the two-faced and multi-faced presidential role in the modern multiversity. And a topic close to home, that I’d published some thoughts on in the Journal some years earlier: professional norms for academic work in the Western enlightenment tradition.****

(Yes, gentle reader – riveting stuff, I know. And I can guess what you must be thinking: had Immanuel Kant been in our class that day, I could have advised him to update sapere aude! with a more zeitgeistig motto – maybe nolite te bastardes carborundorum! … but as we know, in this sorry tale there’s never a philosopher to hand when you really need one…)

By 4pm, my last webinar was done. I logged off, stood up and stretched. Then went downstairs and made a cup of tea. Returning to my desk, I re-read my draft reply to Alex and Josh. On balance, I decided, it was perhaps a shade too short and sharp for present purposes.

But know this, gentle reader: it was high time to hammer spanners into boomerangs (as the old Aussie saying goes). And time to point out that Simon and Julie had picked the wrong heretic to persecute. I deleted my draft, and began again. After half an hour it was ready. This time I hit Send.

From: Geoff Sharrock
Sent: Wednesday, 20 April 2016 4:53 PM
To: Lazzari, Alexandra; Pitt, Josh
Cc: Yardley, Mia; Ian Dobson; Leo Goedegebuure
Subject: RE: CJHE 1150231: Beautiful lies JHEPM

Thanks Alex, I think any reasonable third party would accept that I have engaged in an open and responsive way with the concerns that Professor Marginson has raised; and with patience too, when one considers the way in which those concerns have been raised. Professor Marginson has had ample opportunity to point out to me any explicit or implied misrepresentation of his work in my paper; and also to point out why he considers its critique of common but fallacious OECD comparisons to be wrong. To update my earlier advice, following further exchanges with the journalist at The Australian, the paper has refused to publish my response to its reporting, in which I had sought to correct its misrepresentation of the article. As advised previously, I have already provided a copy of that response to Professor Marginson, with an explanation of the reasons given to the journalist for publishing it.

It is now quite apparent that the journalist concerned had been in communication with Professor Marginson … In retrospect, it is not surprising that the newspaper report’s framing of my paper so closely resembles Professor Marginson’s own initial response to it. It is almost as if the journalist concerned took offence on his behalf, and then acted in a manner designed to discredit both the paper and its author. I have already begun to take legal advice on what the Australian has done; the way its report has misrepresented the article appears to be a clear breach of my moral rights as an author. I also intend to take advice on what appear to me to be quite defamatory accusations made by Professor Marginson since I first contacted him about the article, as soon as I saw what the Australian had done with it. Regards, Geoff

In other words, T&F, who’s being slandered here? There was no response from anyone.

So far, one thing I hadn’t highlighted to T&F was how much work I’d done over the years for this particular Journal. As with most scholarly publishing, its output and business model depended heavily on scholars putting in untold hours of unpaid work. Not just to publish their own work; but as peer reviewers and guest editors. In that context I was struck by how indifferent T&F seemed to be to the rights of authors. Their chief concern seemed to be how best to appease the complainant.

Again, I went back to that March exchange: It is likely that your own reputation will be affected at least as much as the reputations of those you have sought to denigrate... Did all this drama turn on an idle threat, made only for the sake of reputation, reputation, reputation?

The following week I still hadn’t heard back from T&F. I sent another note, this time to spell out what I saw as the inevitable consequence for scholars of simply being wrong. And also the implication for journals of not also looking after the interests of their contributors.

From: Geoff Sharrock
Sent: Monday, 25 April 2016 12:14 PM
To: Lazzari, Alexandra; Pitt, Josh
Cc: Yardley, Mia; Ian Dobson; Leo Goedegebuure
Subject: RE: CJHE 1150231: Beautiful lies JHEPM

Hi Alex, Again, I look forward to hearing back when you have news … as your legal advisors seem intent on placating Marginson by giving him the option to all but determine the outcome, I have to say it is hard to see why he would want to give consent to any kind of publication of my paper’s analysis. No matter how politely one puts it, the paper demonstrates that his commentary has overlooked GDP growth disparities which, once recognised, are simply too big to ignore … the paper’s critique of this problem is well based in logic and evidence. While I have offered to amend the paper in light of concerns raised, in the end, the fact that its exposure of flaws in some of Marginson’s commentary may hurt his scholarly reputation is not my problem. In my view, this should not be the journal’s problem either. If the only complaints to date are about the paper’s title, my (assumed) misrendering of Marginson’s work or my (assumed) support for less rather than more funding for universities, I suggest you take care not to let these vague and inferential concerns be used as alibis to block publication of a substantive critique which no critic of the paper has sought to answer directly.

So thanks again, and I look forward to hearing back as the situation becomes clearer. Meanwhile, I won’t be doing any guest editor work on the next special edition of the journal, as in previous years; I prefer to wait and see how the present situation is resolved. Cheers, Geoff

By Friday afternoon I had my answer. The news wasn’t good.

From: Lazzari, Alexandra
Sent: Friday, 29 April 2016 3:15 PM
To: Geoff Sharrock; Pitt, Josh
Cc: Yardley, Mia; Ian Dobson; Leo Goedegebuure
Subject: RE: CJHE 1150231: Beautiful lies JHEPM

Dear Geoff, We have consulted in-house, and have decided it is not appropriate for us to contact Dr Marginson, nor involve ourselves and the Journal any further in this matter. Any further submission of a revised version of the now withdrawn article would be considered by the Journal only on condition you were to obtain and present written approval from Dr Marginson. Yours sincerely, Alex

Seriously, T&F? The complainant gets to make the editorial decision on a peer-reviewed paper that the author is ready to amend? And how would that work in practice? A three-way discussion with Ian? I sent a note in reply.

From: Geoff Sharrock
Sent: Friday, 29 April 2016 3:37 PM
To: Lazzari, Alexandra; Pitt, Josh
Cc: Yardley, Mia; Ian Dobson; Leo Goedegebuure
Subject: RE: CJHE 1150231: Beautiful lies JHEPM 

Dear Alex, To clarify: are you suggesting that Marginson would in effect need to approve each proposed revision? Regards, Geoff

There was no response from Alex.

Privately, Leo had told me weeks before that he didn’t have a problem with my paper (Chapter 10). But as far as reactions to it were concerned, he’d been studiously neutral. But now, finally, he was ready to get off the fence, and tell T&F how absurd it seemed to cancel publication over something like this. From his next message it appeared that Josh was now back from leave, and had already been in touch with Leo for a private discussion. And that Leo had also discussed this with the Association of Tertiary Education Management, which co-owned the Journal with our Institute.

From: Leo Goedegebuure
Sent: Friday, 29 April 2016 6:07 PM
To: Geoff Sharrock; Lazzari, Alexandra; Pitt, Josh
Cc: Ian Dobson
Subject: RE: CJHE 1150231: Beautiful lies JHEPM

Dear all, I believe in my honest opinion that this has gone way too far. Josh, I would indeed appreciate a discussion with you, preferably on Monday. Whilst I explicitly do not want to drag this one through the weekend with further extensive email follow up (i.e. please stop sending further emails) my position and that of ATEM, with whom I discussed this yesterday prior to their Council meeting is very simple and clear: this article has been peer reviewed and subsequently published. It has received some over-the-top reactions. But that does not warrant either major revisions nor withdrawal. I believe the article should remain as is in accordance the Version of Record. And it should not be withdrawn, but remain in the public domain and ultimately appear in print. This I believe is standard academic procedure … I cannot believe that shouting loudly and indignantly without much substance can prevent a legitimate article to be published … I will discuss with Josh on Monday and then follow up with Geoff. Regards, Leo

Thank you Leo, I thought. Way Too Far indeed, T&F! Now would you, Leo – or some other Centre professor – please explain this to Marginson? Seeing as how we all work in a Centre that studies higher education and the way academia is supposed to work?

But any prospect of that happening still seemed remote. Near the end, Leo had added: For the record: I insist that this exchange of views remains private and confidential. (And so it would remain, gentle reader – until this Diary).

When I spoke with him the next Monday, Leo had no resolution to offer from his Josh discussion. He now framed the main problem as a journal governance issue. Handling the complaint was not his role (as part-owner of the Journal, or as an editorial board member): it was properly a matter for the Editor. But as publisher, Josh was constrained by the legal advice he’d been getting from London. And without publisher support, Ian as Editor was (apparently) poorly placed to deal with Marginson directly. So the saga continues, Leo concluded; we’d just have to wait for the process to run its course.

As that week slipped by, nothing happened. On Thursday I sent a note to the Editor: You will have gathered that I have found this situation stressful and frustrating … Is it worth a phone call to talk about how the situation might be resolved?

There was no reply. On Friday afternoon I followed up with the Journal, to pick up where Leo had left off the previous Friday.

From: Geoff Sharrock
Sent: Friday, 6 May 2016 5:17 PM
To: Leo Goedegebuure; Lazzari, Alexandra; Pitt, Josh
Cc: Ian Dobson
Subject: RE: CJHE 1150231: Beautiful lies JHEPM 

Dear all, I had a helpful discussion with Leo about this on Monday … and I assume from the radio silence since then that there is still no resolution. I hope next week the matter will fare better … Regards, Geoff

No-one reponded to this. But later that evening, Ian replied to my Thursday note.

From: Ian Dobson
Sent: Friday, 6 May 2016 7:30 PM
To: Geoff Sharrock
Subject: Re: state of play

Hi Geoff, I have been out all day. I don’t wish to discuss anything about this. It is in the hands of the publisher. Regards, Ian

So much for journal governance, I thought. It now looked like the outcome would turn entirely on where the professor and the publisher ended up, in their own discussions. And since the professor was a well-established expert, he could find plausible ways to assert that my analysis of OECD data was simply wrong, and that the paper’s title alone implied bias and animosity.

That weekend I decided to make one last attempt to spell out the paper’s case to Marginson, and the rest of the Centre group. Going back through his remarks, T&F’s level of alarm and risk aversion still made no sense. Like Hare, the complainant had simply misconstrued the paper’s case. I couldn’t see any concern that he’d raised, that hadn’t been addressed.

And by now I was a dog with a bone. The more grave things seemed, the more deeply I would dig. On the Sunday night I sent a further note to the Journal group. I reaffirmed Leo’s point about process. And I asked again if I’d been given the full details of the complaint.

From: Geoff Sharrock
Sent: Sunday, 8 May 2016 10:55 PM
To: Leo Goedegebuure; Lazzari, Alexandra; Pitt, Josh
Cc: Ian Dobson
Subject: RE: CJHE 1150231: Beautiful lies JHEPM

Dear all, As one would expect I support Leo’s main point. I have taken Marginson’s concerns seriously, rechecked quotes and considered minor edits. But he should not be able to determine that a peer-reviewed paper, once accepted for publication, must be withdrawn until he consents to have it published; particularly since a right of reply is a standard offer by the journal in such cases. Looking back Josh, I can understand why you decided to make the online version ‘unavailable’ from a risk point of view. But just as a matter of process, I would like it noted that the author did not consent to any kind of ‘withdrawal’ …

Looking ahead, I’m now preparing a further response to Marginson, to address his scholarly criticisms of the paper’s argument and analysis. Not just the aspects he was upset about, which is where most of the attention has been. Before doing that, I’d like to reconfirm that there have not been any specific complaints in writing (including of course by email) about the paper from Marginson, beyond those that I have seen … Much thanks, Geoff

By then I wasn’t surprised when there was no response to this, from anyone. Whatever had happened in vagueness would stay in vagueness. It was May 2016 at the University of Melbourne. Autumn was here. And winter was coming…

Image source:

Notes and translation

*Way too far, Taylor & Francis?

**For the sake of sanity!

***Get off the fence!

**** For a summary of my paper see Rebecca Attwood, I swear I am just doing my job in Times Higher Education.

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