A case of disputed authorship at the Australian Museum

This account is located on

Suppression of dissent website

in the section on Documents

The scientific journal Records of the Australian Museum published a paper in the December 1995 issue under the names D. J. G. Griffin and H. E. Stoddart. There is evidence that a considerable portion of the work reported in this paper was done by Diane E. Brown, but the article gives no acknowledgment to her.

The article in question has an extremely long history compared to most scientific papers. In 1975 Griffin and Brown collaborated on studies of crustaceans. Around this time Dr Griffin, previously deputy director of the Australian Museum, became director; Ms Brown was a technical officer in the Museum, not working directly for Griffin. Most of the work was done in her own time.

A first paper from the collaboration appeared in 1976 in Records of the Australian Museum, published by the Museum itself.[1] According to Brown, she began work on a second paper in late 1975, doing most of the research, including collection of specimens, taxonomic identifications, cataloguing of specimens, writing and typing, while Griffin's contribution was mostly in the form of editing.[2] The first version of the manuscript[3] listed as its authors D. J. G. Griffin and Diane E. Brown. Due to a falling out between Griffin and Brown and involving J. K. Lowry (editor of the Records), work on the manuscript ceased for nearly a decade.

In 1985, Griffin wrote to Brown saying he was moving the manuscript towards publication and giving her the choice of being listed as an author or being listed in the acknowledgments.[4]Brown replied that since she was principal author she would expect to be listed as coauthor and that she also expected to able to see the final manuscript before it was submitted. In addition, she said that extensive new work needed to be done to update and correct the manuscript before it was suitable for submission.[5] This was unacceptable to Griffin, who proceeded to seek publication under his own name. However, publication did not occur at that time.

In June 1988, Brown filed a grievance against Griffin concerning authorship of the manuscript.[6] Under the Museum's grievance procedures, Griffin, the director, was also the grievance manager. After some months and exchange of correspondence, Griffin appointed the Deputy Director, Hal Cogger, as grievance manager in this case.[7] Brown objected to Cogger's appointment on a number of grounds, including that Cogger was on leave until May 1989.[8]

Eventually Dr Betty Meahan from the Museum was appointed grievance investigator. She reported in August 1989. An important conclusion was that "If this paper is to be published, even in a changed form, it would be appropriate for Ms Brown to be included in the authorship."[9] Brown accepted the grievance report as written but Griffin did not.

In December 1995, Records of the Australian Museum published a paper under the names D. J. G. Griffin and H. E. Stoddart.[10] A significant fraction of this paper is identical word-for-word to the earlier manuscript mainly prepared by Diane Brown under the authorship Griffin and Brown.

It is commonly accepted scholarly practice that the authorship of published works should appropriately reflect the contributions of those who did the research. In this case the evidence suggests that Brown was denied co-authorship that was properly hers. This case seems similar to a number of others in which the contributions of students, research assistants or wives of researchers have been denied proper recognition.[11]

It would be appropriate for Records of the Australian Museum to publish a statement acknowledging that Brown should have been listed as coauthor and that she was not adequately consulted in preparation of the version that was published.

Brian Martin
Science and Technology Studies
University of Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia
e-mail: brian_martin@uow.edu.au

10 June 1996


The above document was sent to Griffin for comment. He sent a letter in reply dated 27 June 1996. I informed him that I had put "A case of disputed authorship" on my web site and offered to post his letter as well, but he refused permission to publish it this way. However, Brown's lengthy response to Griffin's letter is available here.

In an article in Campus Review titled "Academic credit where it's due", I commented on this and another case.

In mid 1997, Records of the Australian Museum published an Erratum in which Griffin and Stoddart said that Diane Brown should have been mentioned in the acknowledgments to their paper. This at once admits a failure to recognise her contribution and drastically misrepresents it, reducing it from coauthorship to a minor acknowledgment. Diane Brown does not accept the Erratum as an adequate acknowledgment nor as an accurate statement of her role in the paper.

On 24 September 1996, I sent a copy of this account, "A case of disputed authorship" to Records of the Australian Museum for publication. On 21 April 1997 it was rejected as an article on the grounds that the journal publishes only scientific contributions. I immediately resubmitted it as a letter to the editor. On 2 May the editor Jim Lowry replied that he would "need to seek advice from the editorial committee and the Deputy Director before making a decision on publication". Gary Morgan, the new Associate Director of the Museum, wrote on 29 August that my "article" would not be published because it fell outside the scope of the Records. The Records thus is willing to publish an erratum that in my view minimises and misrepresents Brown's contribution but not a letter that presents a contrary view.

Brian Martin, 16 September 1997



1. D. J. G. Griffin and D. E. Brown, "Deepwater decapod Crustacea from eastern Australia: brachyuran crabs," Records of the Australian Museum, Vol. 30, 1976, pp. 248-271.

2. Diane Brown, letter to Brian Martin, 23 April 1996.

3. Entitled "Deepwater decapod Crustacea from eastern Australia: lobsters of the families Palinuridae, Polychelidae, Scyllaridae and Nephropidae."

4. Des Griffin, memo to Diane Brown, 6 December 1985. Later memos reiterated the same points.

5. D. Brown, memo to Des Griffin, 22 January 1986; D. Brown, memo to D. Griffin, 7 February 1986. Later memos reiterated the same points.

6. D. Brown, memo to D. Griffin, 21 June 1988.

7. Des Griffin, memo to Hal Cogger, 18 November 1988.

8. Diane Brown, memo to Des Griffin, 5 December 1988.

9. Betty Meahan, memo to Hal Cogger, 27 August 1989.

10. D. J. G. Griffin and H. E. Stoddart, "Deep-water decapod Crustacea from Eastern Australia: lobsters of the families Nephropidae, Palinuridae, Polychelidae and Scyllaridae," Records of the Australian Museum, Vol. 47, 1 December 1995, pp. 231-263.

11. Brian Martin, "Academic exploitation," in Brian Martin, C. M. Ann Baker, Clyde Manwell and Cedric Pugh (eds.), Intellectual Suppression: Australian Case Histories, Analysis and Responses (Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1986, pp. 59-62; Brian Martin, "Plagiarism: a misplaced emphasis," Journal of Information Ethics, Vol. 3, No. 2, Fall 1994, pp. 36-47.