Queen’s Professor Tony Gallagher criticised over education report

Professor Tony Gallagher, Pro-Vice-Chancellor at Queen's
Professor Tony Gallagher, Pro-Vice-Chancellor at Queen's

A high-flying Ulster academic has come in for criticism over part of a report into academic selection in the Province.

Professor Tony Gallagher, pro-vice chancellor at Queen’s University, Belfast, said he accepts the findings of a misconduct probe into a piece of his work, which uncovered an “inappropriate” aspect to citing one of his sources.

The matter stems from a report he had worked on in 2000, written for the Department of Education, and the investigation into it was called for by barrister Robert McCartney this year, who said the work had been key to the abolition of the 11-plus in Ulster.

In Prof Gallagher’s 2000 report, he made reference to some research he had done, said to have been published in a volume called “Educational and Legal Aspects of Selection in Schools”.

However, no such volume called “Educational and Legal Aspects of Selection in Schools” was produced by him.

Mr McCartney told the News Letter: “To claim that a document or a book has been published carries with it in academic circles a certain cache.”

Claiming something has been published when it has not is “unacceptable in research academia”, he added.

After Mr McCartney raised the issue, the then-QUB vice-chancellor wrote back: “I recognise the reference you have highlighted in the report prepared for the Department of Education is incorrect.”

Speaking yesterday, Prof Gallagher said two out of the three papers which would have made up “Educational and Legal Aspects of Selection in Schools” have been published elsewhere, while the remaining one has always been available to anyone who wanted it – in other words, all the research had existed, just not under that particular title.

The QUB investigation said that “it was inappropriate” to have mentioned the volume without also adding that it was merely “in preparation”.

Prof Gallagher: “The conclusion of the university process I guess just indicated that I should have said it in a different way, and that’s fine. I accept that.”

But Mr McCartney said such an idea of an “in preparation” work had no value in academia, and could mean anything.

Prof Gallagher said: “That’s his view.”

He also said he is “very confident of the quality of the work that we did.”

The university itself said: “The investigation concluded that there was one incorrect reference which resulted in appropriate actions being taken internally.”