Wednesday, May 23, 2012

May 21, 2002: Investigating the Schön Affair

Ten years ago this week, Lucent Technologies announced that it had convened a panel to investigate possible scientific misconduct at Bell Labs. Interestingly, the story in the New York Times by Kenneth Chang featured the role of Bertram Batlogg, mentioning Hendrik Schön only in the final paragraph.

At the time, I thought this story missed the point, since it seemed clear that Schön was at the center of the problems. (Batlogg wasn't even an author on some of the papers in question.) But as Chang told me later, Batlogg had been highly visible when the spectacular "breakthroughs" were being announced. For this reason, Chang (who had covered the earlier work) thought that Batlogg's was the name that readers would be most likely to recognize, and not highlighting it would be a disservice to readers.

One of the biggest challenges to the committee (which I served on) was figuring out how to deal with Batlogg's role, neither assigning him primary responsibility nor minimizing his role.

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