FOIA Facts 2 - No Pro Bono - Federal Funds Mis-Used For Wegman Report And Much More

Tue, 2013-05-21 05:30John Mashey
John Mashey's picture

FOIA Facts 2 - No Pro Bono - Federal Funds Mis-Used For Wegman Report And Much More

Wegman's mis-use of Army funds, irrelevant work outweighed relevant

As begun in FOIA Facts 1, Ed Wegman and Rep. Joe Barton repeatedly called the Wegman Report “pro bono”* but Wegman and Said later claimed it as work done for existing Federal  grants paid quarterly.  In response to Dan Vergano FOIA request  Wegman and Said each said the work was pro bono, years after claiming for credit it and much other irrelevant work. Together, they “charged” 48 inappropriate works to grants they effectively treated as slush funds.

Wegman was funded by Army Research Office (ARO) grant 0447, $217K for “Analytical and Graphical Methods for Streaming Data with Applications to Netcentric Warfare.” He claimed credit for 75 papers and talks, listed in the thumbnail at left or full-sized in Sheet §0.1.

Dark blue shows fit (possibly relevant) papers, but almost all acknowledged earlier grants and were published or mostly done before 0447. Wegman improperly claimed them again in late 2008, perhaps because he had done so little new relevant work in peer-reviewed research journals. Ignoring them leaves just cyan (light blue) talks, outnumbered by grant-unfit works: green for alcoholism, red for attempts to discredit climate science and orange for miscellaneous others unrelated to his or Said's grants.

The chronology matches well - fit papers essentially vanished after 2005, as Wegman plunged into climate and worked on alcoholism with Said, who claimed the Wegman Report for her grant. A 91-page report on unfamiliar topics and Congressional hearings had to consume much more effort than anything else. Even by simple counts, more than half of each person's works were inappropriate, but the grant time spent inappropriately was almost certainly larger. 

Lamar Smith (R-TX) might want to investigate obvious funds misuse before trying to meddle with the National Science Foundation.

“Congress has a responsibility to review questionable research paid for by hard-working American taxpayers. … Public funds should be used to benefit the American people.”

Of $492K in grant funds, GMU took about 30%, while Wegman and Said published almost no grant-relevant work in peer-reviewed research journals.  For conferences, in 2007, either or both visited Cairo, Saudi Arabia (4 times), Azores, Italy, and then in 2008, England, Turkey, Portugal, and Cairo, each spending 5-6 months away. Exactly who paid for the trips is unclear.

* For some examples, do a Full Search for “pro bono” in Strange Scholarship.

While research can lead in unexpected directions, and few would care if a senior person listed a few tangential efforts, Federal funders usually expect people to focus primarily on topics they proposed to win grants.

The Army didn't get much for its money, but that might not have been obvious, given a vague 0447 Progress Report. The Final Report was late and filled with numerous claims that might seem impressive unless painstakingly checked.

Details

Wegman essentially transferred almost all 2004-2008 talks and papers from his resume to his final report, allocating them to ARO-required categories, whether or not they had been done too early, charged to other grants or bore any relationship to 0447.

In effect he treated the grant as though it were salary to be used for any purposes.  Sheet §K adopts his resume numbers, enumerates his talks and papers,  then adds others not listed there, such as Said's works.
The other sheets  are:

§0.1 - more complete annotated version of the thumbnail. Wegman was involved in many other works not counted, but possibly distracting.

§0.2 - subset of works involving Said, whose alcohol-fit green works were vastly outweighed by the others.  Some ARO-fit light blue works may have been legal, if she got money from the ARO and claimed them for ARO credit, but not NIAAA credit. Anything but green had to be a distraction. Said spent a year at Johns Hopkins, one of the strongest schools in public health, but then returned to GMU instead for this work. Most postdocs focus on building a research record in their chosen field, and NIAAA strongly encourages them to move to a different school.

§0.3 - chronology, including more distractions, such as foreign travel.

§0.4 - commingling of funds - 48 works clearly were claimed or had acknowledgments for inappropriate grants.

§F - plagiarism and/or falsification and relevant authorities.

§G - chronology of plagiarism chains involving Wegman and students.

§K.2 - rough analysis of repetition - some talks, seemed to be given fairly often over long periods without plausible research progress.

Wegman's 0447 Grant 11/01/04-04/30/08 $217K

Wegman got paid quarterly starting in November 2004. His proposal can be used to evaluate the claims in the Final Report:

p.5 lists papers, most published before the grant started or unfit, as in Sheet §K. The most relevant and credible paper was #4 (P173), whose original was submitted before the grant started, with only minor revisions later to add references.  Paper #6 (P179) was retracted by Elsevier and panned by experts.

pp.7-8 claimed presentations (talks), including:

'13. “Statistics, Data Mining, and Climate Change,” Keynote Talk, Second NASA Datamining Workshop: Issues and Applications in Earth
Science, Pasadena, CA, May, 2006. T123

14. “Statistics, Data Mining, and Climate Change,” Keynote Talk, Symposium on the Interface, Pasadena, CA, May, 2006. T124

16. Testimony to House Committee on Energy and Commerce, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C., July 20 and 27, 2006.  (this was the presentation of the Wegman Report to Congress, the largest effort by far, but essentially obscured as one of many talks) T126 Since this was Federally-funded work, perhaps one might ask who wrote each part and who did the programming.

17. “The Kyoto Accord, The 2001 IPCC Third Assessment Report and The Academic Papers Underpinning Them,” Joint Statistics Meeting, Seattle, WA, August, 2006. T127

22. “The Hockey Stick Controversy: Lessons for Statisticians,” Army Conference on Applied Statistics, Research Triangle Park, NC, October, 2006. T132

25. “Reanalysis of the Hockey Stick Paleoclimate Reconstruction,” Public Lecture, Distinguished Visiting Professor at the American University of Cairo, Cairo, Egypt, March, 2007. T135

31. “20 Questions a Statistician Should Ask about Climate Change,” ASA Workshop on Climate Change, NCAR, Boulder, CO, October,2007' T141

Wegman claimed 75 total works: 13 on alcoholism, 8 miscellaneous-unfit, 9 hockey-stick and 2 never published, leaving 43 possibly fit works.  Of those, at least 12 were published before the grant, and 7 more were likely or mostly done before, leaving 24-31 fit works, compared to the 30 that were clearly unfit. This grant produced at most 1-2 fit peer-reviewed research journal papers, a startling drop from 2004-2005.

Somewhat similar problems were found in the other grants.

ARO-Administered 0059 Grant, 12/15/06-12/15/07, $100K

Adaptive Multi-modal Data Mining and Fusion For Autonomous Intelligence Discovery” started with the Army Research Laboratory, overlapped somewhat with 0447, and seemed to mostly employ grad students who did not get their PhDs with Wegman. It seemed to be a cut-down version of an earlier grant proposal to a different agency (NGA), of which some traces remained when given to ARL. The Award was for $100K, a 05/05/07 Progress Report (or presentation) was found among the 2010 files Wegman gave to Vergano, and the year-late Final Report emphasized work by students. It claimed the following, except the last, which later acknowledged 0059.

0059-claimed works
P178 0059-unfit, likely similar to P179, but not located
P179 0059-unfit, retracted for plagiarism May 2011
P301 0059-fit (maybe), seems unpublished so hard to tell
T144a 0059-fit, but not a journal paper
P200 0059-unfit, and plagiarism has been alleged

 

Near the end of the grant period, Wegman and Said proposed to GMU to patent much of the work seemingly done by the students, unmentioned in the patent proposal. Sheet §0.3 includes a chronology of the various students. 

Said's NIAAA 5876 Grant, 05/26/06-05/29/09, $164K

Said's got her postdoc grant 5876 for “A Social Network Model of Ecological Alcohol System” from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), to help her become an alcoholism researcher, which she claimed was her clear career goal. Dedication was not obvious from the total absence of papers in peer-reviewed research journals and effort spent on extensive travel and other distractions. By 2009 alcoholism works slowed, and then halted.

Said claimed the Wegman Report, and almost certainly wrote much of it, although she got NIAAA funds only during the last 2 months of that effort. She may have been getting 0447 funds earlier, Final Report, p.10.

'The social network research was reported in the Congressional testimony during July 19 and July 27, 2007 (sic) and in the report that was submitted the U.S. House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. …

Wegman, Edward J, Said, Yasmin H., and Scott, David W. (2006) “Ad hoc Committee Report on the 'Hockey Stick' Global Climate Reconstruction,• A Report to Chairman Barton, House Committee on Energy and Commerce and to Chairman Whitfield, House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations: Plaeoclimate (sic) Reconstruction, to United States House of Representatives, 2006.'

Counting acknowledgements and her claims in first and second Progress reports, at least 18 unfit works used 5876 funding. She also claimed at least 3 works completed 9-12 months before her grant started. Combined with emails given by Wegman to Vergano in reply to a 2010 FOIA, the Progress Reports include interesting comments, as in the second, describing late 2008:

Interest in social network and text mining work has allowed me to spend approximately two months in Saudi Arabia last Fall. There I made contact with a number of physicians concerned with drug and alcohol use in Saudi Arabia.’

No published work resulted from her 2-month visit to a country where alcohol is banned and women's travel is not so easy. The NIAAA (properly) redacted not-yet-published papers, so some false claims may have been missed. As did Wegman's reports to the ARO, hers to the NIAAA were filled with irrelevant works and overly optimistic claims of progress that never materialized.

Commonwealth of Virginia GMU Grant to Said, 07/01/07-12/15/07, $30K

In 2007, Said got a supplementary grant of $30K, $5K/month for 6 months from the Commonwealth of Virginia via GMU. For FOIAs in February 2013, they sent Vergano this note, a list of payments, and an NIH policy applicable to her postdoc, but could locate no further information, such as a grant application or reports of results. Given Said's large efforts on non-alcoholism work and heavy foreign travel then, accountability seems rather weak. Virginia AG Cuccinelli is said to be a strong guardian of state funds. Perhaps his office should investigate. 

Bradley Complaint and Grants

In May 2010 (“Strange Inquiries at GMU§A.2.4), Ray Bradley put GMU on notice about the 3 key grants acknowledged in P179.

The reported plagiarism also points to a number of Federal grants that may be implicated in this matter, which raises a whole set of additional oversight concerns of which you should be aware.’

Did no one at GMU bother to look at the reports? GMU did not need FOIAs. A cursory look at the 0447 report shows many claims far outside the purpose of the proposal. People might argue about a few of the orange ones, but all could be discarded without changing the results or eliminating the most damaging single problem: the Wegman Report was supported by Federal funding, although the agencies could not have known that at the time.

The “pro bono” claims by Wegman, Said and Barton were false.

Transparency

Dan Vergano wrote in Experts claim 2006 climate report plagiarized:

'The Wegman report called for improved “sharing of research materials, data and results” from scientists. But in response to a request for materials related to the report, GMU said it “does not have access to the information.” Separately in that response, Wegman said his “email was downloaded to my notebook computer and was erased from the GMU mail server,” and he would not disclose any report communications or materials because the “work was done offsite,” aside from one meeting with Spencer.'

Wegman and Said were using non-GMU emails and they may or may not really have been working offsite, but they were being supported by Federal funds and claimed credit for this work.  Perhaps Wegman and Said should supply more information on their use of Federal funds for this, and perhaps GMU might actually start taking this seriously, which has not occurred to date.

The agency Federal FOIA responders were prompt and helpful. Dan Vergano was invaluable in getting FOIA replies from GMU. VA law only requires answers to FOIAs if requested by VA residents and relevant news organizations. However, now that it is known that the Wegman Report was funded by 0447 and 5786, this might be revisited, perhaps backed by subpoena power. Wegman should supply much more information about the Federally-funded, problematic report, including the relevant emails that he moved off the GMU server. Hopefully, he did not just delete the evidence.

Update 05/21/13: In this 2010 response to a FOIA request, Wegman wrote:

'As I mentioned, except for an initial meeting on the GMU campus with Peter Spencer, the work in preparing the testimony was done pro bono and was not a part of my GMU duties. There was no compensation and this work was not done as a part of any state or federally funded grant or contract. The work was done offsite.'

Yasmin Said wrote:

'The work that was done in connection to the so called “Wegman Report” was done on pro bono basis and I did not work on this at GMU or use University facilities or equipment (i.e. George Mason University computers, emails, or phones). The work that was done in connection to the Congressional Testimony was outside the scope of my GMU work, duties, and responsibilities. This was done on my personal time and at a great personal expense. I was never funded to do any climate related work.'

The wording was careful.  Their grants certainly did not specify such work. 

Wegman promised Rep. Henry Waxman(D-CA) that he would make public the code and data for the Wegman Report, subject to approval by the US Navy. The latter was a false excuse and the code has yet to appear.
  

Next: FOIA Facts 3 -  More Plagiarism - Get Grants Or Claim Credit

Update 05/27/13: 0059 proposal seemed a cut-down version of earlier one for NGA, most likely written by Jurgen Symanzik and Wegman, provided to Vergano as part of FOIA reply.  It may or may not have been submitted, but if so, was likely not accepted, as no other trace of it could be found.

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