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Greg Flemming interviewed on National Radio

Fri 28 Oct 2005 In: Comment

National Radio, Nine to Noon programme 20th October, 2005 Interviewer: Eva Radich Published by permission of Radio New Zealand and slightly edited by for clarity. Radich: To answer some of those points raised [by Professor Paul Morris] I'm joined by the Managing Director of the Maxim Institute, Greg Flemming. Let's look at those those issues Chris Banks has just talked about there. The Maxim institute is supposed to be a research organisation that does its own research but that's not really true. Flemming: Maxim's been around for three and a half years. Obviously anyone involved in research will understand that it takes some time to complete your own studies. We've certainly done a lot of those in education, we're only just now able to bring on line the resources required to do that. Radich: But if you haven't done it, surely it's a Christian, truthful sort of thing to admit you haven't done the research, and say: “We're relying on other people.” Flemming: Which we have consistently done. Not once have we presented this research as being our own, and I don't think even Chris is suggesting that. Chris's criticism seems to be that until we've got our own original indigenous research we shouldn't enter the debate, which of course would cut out about ninety-nine point nine percent of people involved in any debate in New Zealand. I don't think that anyone would seriously suggest that research is limited to only being able to quote your own work. Radich: But nevertheless. when you do quote figures, we or anybody would hope that those figures were correct, but in some of those examples raised there, the figures were definitely not correct. Flemming: And, and, no no, and, and they are, I mean, you know, we've spoken to Chris on two occasions, not on a number of occasions, and the reason we've chosen to do that is because it became pretty clear early on that he's a journalist who's very much informed by his own prejudices. He's more of an activist than a serious journalist, and for that reason we've chosen to respond to most of his queries in writing. Radich: Well, let's look at the point he made about when the Civil Union Bill came out and the research that Maxim quoted said that twenty-eight percent of white male homosexuals had had more than a thousand partners. That study dated back to the 1970's and, he says, those involved were recruited from sex clubs. They were not representative of the gay population. Flemming: No actually, we, and we responded, we've got a seven page, an article in front of me, a seven page response which I'm happy to email through to you, and again Chris is being mischievous here and deliberately so, as I say. He's an activist with an agenda. Radich: Is what he's saying not true? Flemming: No, it's quite, it's absolutely untrue. So i've got a, I've... out of the seven page response here a full page of it deals with that, with that allegation from Chris. I'm happy to send that through to you and any of the listeners that would like to see it. Radich: What about the more general comment that Bruce Logan's writings have been plagiarising other people's work? Flemming: Well yeah, that's what I thought we were going to talk about this morning. Radich: We're going to talk about all of those issues that arise from the issue of the... Flemming: Yeah, oh no, for sure, but now that we've just, we've just set Chris's reasonably wild allegations to the side... Radich: We don't have any proof, do we, that either he or you are correct? Flemming: No, we certainly don't have any proof of those... and as I say we've got, as I say, I put a seven page document together that answers each and every one of Chris's allegations there, and we're more than happy to, to send that to anybody who would like to contact... Radich: And did you send that to him when he asked? Flemming: Of course, and he knows full well that he's got that . As i say, he's, he's being mischievous and that's, you, I know, that's part of what the, what the debate unfortunately is about in New Zealand. But in terms of the issue of plagiarism, we've taken this issue very seriously, which is why immediately we came out and unreservedly apologised. We recognised that there have been careless errors made by Bruce [Logan]. Radich: It seems to have been happening for some time. Why? Flemming: Well it's the type of error that can occur when somebody is, and again I'm not excusing it here at all, but a reasonable explanation is that when somebody is researching the vast amount work that Bruce is, and has been for over fifty years now, you read material at a pace, you take notes, you, you assimilate ideas and when you come to write up these, again with deadlines approaching, you often fall into or lapse into that, that error, or into that area where the error can occur, and certainly it has occurred on occasions. Radich: But your credibility as a think tank, as an intellectual group that's looking at research and committed to excellence in New Zealand - that's on your mission statement, excellence - when you want to achieve excellence, then the first thing to do surely is to give credit to somebody else's work when you use it? Flemming: Absolutely. Which is why, again I say right from the outset, we have apologised unreservedly. These were careless errors. Bruce is extremely annoyed at himself. He's unreservedly apologetic and we've taken internal steps to make sure that won't happen again. What I'm saying is people in glass houses should not throw stones. In fact, most of the critics who have delighted in throwing these stones over the last two or three days should go back and examine their own work before they take too much glee. In your introduction you mentioned, for example, Paul Litterick from the Humanist Society. His own work has been put through the same copy scan mechanism that Bruce's was put through, and I guess it's no surprise - but probably just as disappointing - that Paul's work similarly comes up with large degrees of uncited work. Radich: Let's look at what the Maxim institute stands for, Greg. Can you tell us, in simple words, what exactly you're trying to achieve? Flemming: We're a conservative think tank. We are simply here to advocate for ideas and principles that we believe can make New Zealand strong, and essentially they are the ideas and principals and institutions inherent in a civil society. Radich: And exactly how are you going to make sure that this doesn't happen again? I know you've said that Bruce Logan has apologised, but what steps will you put in place to make sure that the Maxim Institute can really stand for excellence and can't be accused of cheating? Because if you have kids at school doing this, or at university, their work is thrown back at them. You know they're cheating. And surely that's the thing that you would be committed to not doing? Flemming: Absolutely, one hundred percent. Which is again why I say we continue to unreservedly apologise. We accept that this is without a doubt going to leave some bruises on the Institute, particularly on Bruce who's obviously the lead researcher in question here, and that will take a, you know, that will take... for a time we'll suffer the consequence of that and we're aware of it. The internal steps that we've taken are two-fold. One, we have just ensured that each staff member's work is cross-checked. And secondly, we've invested quite heavily in some software called Reference Manager. Every piece of research, every writing that is read will be referenced and placed in the system so that any material, before it is sent out to publication, can be checked out against that reasonably comprehensive database. Radich: But you're not looking for Mr Logan's resignation? Flemming: No. I think that would be an extreme over-reaction and as I was saying before, I think if that was the standard to be applied, that because someone has committed this type of error they're no longer able to write or research, then I think you'd find about ninety percent of people involved in writing and journalism in this country would be shuddering at the thought themselves. But again, I just want to add, we're not in any way looking for excuses. It doesn't matter whether everybody is committing these errors, it's still wrong. I would just again caution people about taking too much glee in this when their own work, in reality, would falter on some of the errors. Radich: Thank you very much, Greg Flemming, Managing Director of the Maxim Institute. - 28th October 2005    


First published: Friday, 28th October 2005 - 12:00pm

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