Ren is in Robot’s office discussing Lucius. Robot is temporary Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences while the usual Dean is on sabbatical, and as this is the Faculty that Psychology belongs to, Robot is currently the man in charge of deciding what to do about Lucius.
What Robot wants to do is to delay making any decision for as long as possible, until the regular Dean comes back, so he has to be the one to deal with the mess. Ren, Ken and Halberd went to see Robot a week ago and presented their analysis of his work, leaving out what they know about the train station study. It was, as Robot agreed, a damning analysis. They showed that there was a very large amount of results that were too good to be true. The Cronbach Alpha scores were very low. Whole rows of results in different studies were exactly the same, suggesting they’d been copied and pasted. There were many other statistical oddities. And many studies had supposedly taken place at high schools there was no record of. Lucius had thanked teachers who didn’t exist. Enquiries within the Psychology department, made in a discreet manner that hopefully wouldn’t raise any warning flags, had failed to find anyone who had ever collaborated with Lucius on doing data collection. He always insisted on doing it alone.
All of these things in isolation could possibly be explained. For instance, perhaps Lucius had disguised the names of the schools, and the teachers. Perhaps they wanted to remain anonymous. But taken all together, it pointed one way: a wholesale creation of data. Lucius has to be investigated, as well as being given the chance to defend himself. But Robot just wants to wait.
‘Wait for what?’ says Ren. He knows what Robot is thinking: wait for the regular Dean to come back. But Robot won’t say that.
‘Wait for, ah, wait for things to become clearer.’
‘How are things going to become clearer?’
‘Well, in time things might… over time things look…’
‘If you don’t act, then it’s going to come out, and Grayvington, and you, are going to look bad because you knew what he was up to and you let it continue.’
‘Going to come out? You all said you hadn’t told anyone?’
‘We haven’t told anyone explicitly, but we’ve been making enquiries, as discreetly as we can of course, but there’s a limit to how discreet you can be if you want information. Like me calling Lucius’s old University recently to see if he really had done the research there that he said he had. I pretended it was me wanting to hire their rooms, and said that I’d heard on the grapevine that Lucius might have done so too. Which he hadn’t. So I didn’t ask them outright about Lucius, but they might be suspicious. Plus Ken and Halberd have been talking at conferences with other people about fraud in their field. Apparently some other grad students, from other Unis, have voiced their suspicions about Lucius, and they’re probably getting these suspicions from their supervisors. Before too long someone’s going to put two and two together.’
Ren suspects that a few people in Lucius’s field have already put two and two together, but they’ve chosen not to say anything for political reasons.
‘I wouldn’t like to be the Dean in charge when somebody from another University discovers what Lucius’s been doing, and Ken and Halberd and I will have to explain to the world that we told you all about it and you decided to do nothing.’
‘I’m not deciding to do nothing,’ says an irritated Robot. He doesn’t like having a junior lecturer talk to him like this, but he can hardly say that in this situation.
Robot sits silently, visibly churning.
‘All right,’ he says eventually.
‘All right?’ says Ren.
‘I think we will have to act now.’
‘Good. What are you going to do?’
‘You’ll have to leave that with me.’
‘Okay. Well, you have the report we gave you.’
‘Yes, thank you,’ says Robot.
Yes, thank you Dr Christopher for getting me this shit sandwich from the Shittiest Ever Sandwich Company, and stuffing in into my mouth and making me eat it, is what Robot really means. Ren takes his leave.
Third week of January
Ren knocks on Robot’s door.
‘Sorry to bother you, Grant.’
‘That’s all right. Is it a question about the exam marking? Everything going all right with it?’ asks Grant, with obvious insincerity.
‘Same old. But it’s not that. I was just wondering what’s happening with the Lucius investigation.’
‘I’m afraid I can’t tell you anything about that.’
‘It’s none of your business any more. It’s out of your hands. I should also remind you to say nothing about it at the moment.’
‘You’re not still sitting on it, are you?’
‘No. Look, it’s started, so you need to let the process happen. I expect you’ll be called in at some stage soon to say your piece. But apart from that it no longer involves you.’
‘It does involve me, I’m the one who exposed him. Or should I say, I’m the one who exposed the possibility that there are issues with his data? But yes, I’ll keep quiet for now.’
‘Make sure you do.’
‘What’s he saying? Has he admitted it?’
‘That’s none of your business at this point.’
‘All right, all right. Good luck with it.’
‘Good luck? Nothing good will come of this, whether we have good luck or bad luck.’
‘Clean the stables. Think of it that way.’
‘Thank you for that. That’s a nice viewpoint to have from a distance, but you’re not the one having to deal with all the ordure up close.’
‘Well, you don’t get the extra money as Dean for sitting on your arse all day just doing the usual. You get it for dealing with hard cases, and making difficult decisions.’
‘Just go, Ren.’
‘Back to the exam marking grind? Okay, but you may hear me bashing my head against the wall a few times this afternoon,’ Ren says, closing the door before he can hear Robot getting really angry with him.