Journalists have the responsibility to put stories within a political context

Journalists have the responsibility to put stories within a political context

Summary and context

The summer was filled with press coverage of problems in the Max Planck Society (MPG). Come autumn and these issues had no impact on how politicians perceive the MPG: Yesterday, in the German Bundestag, the education and research minister, Anja Karliczek, proposed a budget for 2019 that showed an added 50 mill EUR to MPG’s budget without any quality check. It appears that the bullying cases  that were extensively covered by the German and international press were dismissed as anomalies in an otherwise excellent research organization. What did the press do wrong that their coverage changed nothing? Here I offer an analysis.

Continue reading “Journalists have the responsibility to put stories within a political context”

Advertisements
There is a culture of discrimination against pregnancy and parenthood inside the Max Planck Society

There is a culture of discrimination against pregnancy and parenthood inside the Max Planck Society

Summary and context

Yet again, one Max Planck female director – this time from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI-CBS) – was presented as an isolated case of bullying in academia. The story illustrates pregnancy discrimination. The press office of the Max Planck Society (MPG) stated that this an isolated case that is internally solved and it doesn’t reflect what the other more than 700 group leaders and directors do. However, years of PhDnet surveys show otherwise. Later – after a social media comment about putting the case within a larger contextBuzzFeed and Spiegel Online covered the case within the context of MPG’s building principle. A few days later, PhDnet launched their position paper on  abuse of power and conflict resolution in the MPG in an interview given by the PhDnet spokesperson, Jana Lasser in Science magazine. The position paper was extensively discussed by Forschung & Lehre. The bullying at MPI-CBS was also reported by the Daily Mail, Washington Post, LA Times, the online magazines of New York Times and Atlantic, among many others. One coverage has a unique take on bullying as an ubiquitous phenomenon. Similarly, there is an ubiquitous phenomenon of discrimination against pregnancy and parenthood inside the MPG, in academia and society.

Continue reading “There is a culture of discrimination against pregnancy and parenthood inside the Max Planck Society”

Bystanders enable academic bullies: The Max Planck Society as a case study

Bystanders enable academic bullies: The Max Planck Society as a case study

Summary and context

In February, Spiegel Online brought up the topic of bullying and sexual harassment at a Max Planck Institute (MPI) in Bavaria. Since then, extensive press coverage discussed the deeds of the female director at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics (MPA). Initially, the press office of the Max Planck Society (MPG) through their spokesperson – Dr. Christina Beck – stated that they heard about the problems at the MPA only in 2016. I proved otherwise: There were documents that went through Dr. Beck’s hands that showed problems at the institute since at least 2013. The president of the MPG – Martin Stratmann – admitted in an interview to FAZ that the internal complaint mechanisms are not ideal but claimed a clear responsibility structure. I agree with the first part, but I will argue that the responsibility structure is far from clear. In addition, academic bullies thrive enabled by bystanders. I describe here how “Nils” – mentioned in the first BuzzFeed coverage – went through all the complaint avenues inside the MPG. Everyone, not only the general administration (GA) of the MPG, knew about what was happening to him.

Continue reading “Bystanders enable academic bullies: The Max Planck Society as a case study”

Is the conversation on academic bullies over now? We are just getting started

Is the conversation on academic bullies over now? We are just getting started

In February, a report in Der Spiegel spoke about bullying and sexual harassment at a Max Planck Institute in Bavaria. The moment I read it, I knew who the academic bully was because each bully has their own brand of bullying. I knew of a case from 2014 that I took through all the mediation levels mentioned in the statutes of the Max Planck Society (MPG). The mediation failed in 2014; the case was reported in BuzzFeed in 2018 as “Nils”. The press office of the MPG was quick to convince Nature News that the issues are going to a head, before actually seeing the results of the survey conducted at the institute. The lack of remorse and failure in taking responsibility disappointed the people at the institute: The MPG continuously stated that the first time they heard about these cases was 2016. As a consequence, the survey results were leaked to BuzzFeed.

Continue reading “Is the conversation on academic bullies over now? We are just getting started”

The press office of the Max Planck Society  keeps themselves busy with threats of legal action for years

The press office of the Max Planck Society keeps themselves busy with threats of legal action for years

Summary and context

The Max Planck Society (MPG) is receiving a lot of press due to the cases of alleged bullying and harassment at Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics (MPA) (SpiegelBuzzFeed, Nature News, again BuzzFeed, Deutschlandfunk, Nature News, Nature News and today by Spiegel again.) I previously covered how the Press Office has a difficult relationship with the truth and how they dismissed old complaints from the junior researchers at the MPA since at least 2013. I also made a case for a long history of discrimination in the MPG. Some years ago, I argued that high rank officials in the MPG use threats and bullying when faced with public criticism. In this post I will present the MPG’s press office strategy of threats with legal action.

Continue reading “The press office of the Max Planck Society keeps themselves busy with threats of legal action for years”

A good practice example and a role model: Marina Rodnina

A good practice example and a role model: Marina Rodnina

Summary and context

In view of current and older criticism, I am showing that not everything is bad inside the Max Planck Society. My intention is to show that there are worthy role models there, one of which is Marina Rodnina. This piece is especially important when, during the recent press coverage, an excuse used was that women have it especially difficult in academia. Indeed, but there are women who take these experiences and do remarkable things for other women. Moreover, since women have no room for failure, there is a chance that recent reports about a female start scientist will influence the progress we made. Marina Rodnina is the example we all need through these times.

The Max Planck Society knew about the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics since at least 2013. They did nothing

The Max Planck Society knew about the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics since at least 2013. They did nothing

Since February this year, the cases of bullying and harassment at Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics (MPA) are openly discussed in the press (Spiegel, BuzzFeed, Nature News and again BuzzFeed). The Max Planck Society (MPG) claims that they acted as fast as they had learned about the situation. The MPG claims, through their head of communications, Dr. Christina Beck, that they did not know about the situation before 2016. However, problems at the MPA were previously reported to the MPG since 2013 in documents that Christina Beck saw as well.

Continue reading “The Max Planck Society knew about the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics since at least 2013. They did nothing”

Are “excellence”-based funding schemes really working?

Are “excellence”-based funding schemes really working?

Germany’s Excellence Strategy programs

Over the last months, the GWK (the Joint Research Conference) – an agency in which the federal government and the state governments (die Länder) make decisions on federal research programs – worked on launching the Excellence Strategy meant to boost Germany’s research profile. The programs need to be approved by Angela Merkel’s cabinet on June 16th. Today, a debate on this topic will take place in the German Lower House of Representatives (Bundestag). Continue reading “Are “excellence”-based funding schemes really working?”