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Was Lionfish Research Hijacked by 12-Year Old from Palm Beach Florida?

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A month following the announced lionfish ban in Florida, a 12-year-old south Florida girl accredited for breakthrough in lionfish research; mistaken accreditation, or plagiarism?

Over the years, research regarding the invasive lionfish has been taking place, and in June 2014, Palm Beach resident, Lauren Arrington, is in the spotlight. Arrington presented a science fair project based on Dr. Zack Jud’s previously published discovery of lionfish living in low-salinity estuarine habitats. Her story has been picked up nationally by CBS, NPR, CORAL magazine, and several educational websites, and has received almost 90,000 likes on Facebook, yet Jud’s years of groundbreaking work on estuarine lionfish are being completely and intentionally ignored.

Several sources seem to immediately discredit Arrington’s claim:

 D. Albrey Arrington, the father of Lauren Arrington, appears as an author on this paper released June 2011. He had absolutely nothing to do with the research however, he was clearly aware that lionfish were found in low salinity parts of the estuary years before the science fair project was carried out. By this time, Jud had planned on running salinity tolerance trials for quite a while before Arrington executed her project, invalidating the premise that any related research had been ultimately replicated or expanded upon by ecologists. Jud’s work further revealed wild lionfish in salinities in as low as 8 ppt, just a hair above the young girls 6 ppt “breakthrough” in captivity.

†† A subsequent paper that Jud and his PhD advisor, North Carolina State University ecologist Craig Layman published in 2012 that documented movement patterns of lionfish within the estuary.  The “discovery” was made years before the science fair project was carried out.  Arrington’s project lowered the salinity bar from 8 ppt (Jud’s previous finding, which Arrington knew about) to 6 ppt.  Jud subsequently demonstrated that lionfish could survive in salinities as low as 5 ppt for extended periods of time, and as low as 1 ppt for brief periods (in the wild, around low tide during the wet season).

This research paper reflects a prior 19-month study on the effects of lower salinity on invasive species including the lionfish.

zack-jud-1

The above photo pulled from Jud’s Facebook page, was taken in August 2010 when Jud first discovered lionfish occupying estuarine habitats – 3 years prior to Arrington’s “discovery”.

My lionfish research is going viral…but my name has been intentionally left out of the stories, replaced by the name of the 12-year-old daughter of my former supervisor’s best friend. I feel like my hands are tied. Anything I say will come off as an attempt to steal a little girl’s thunder, but it’s unethical for her and her father to continue to claim the discovery of lionfish in estuaries as her own.

– Marine Biologist, Zack Jud, Ph.D.

Jud, thrilled that his work has sparked the interest of Arrington, has no desire to diminish her curiosity or enthusiasm. He spends a massive amount of time exposing kids to science, and is pleased that she chose to focus on lionfish for her science fair project. However, encouraging the perpetuation of an outright lie is wrong no matter how you look at it. There are certainly better ways to parent and introduce a youngster to a career in the sciences.

CBS provided us with this video from their original coverage. It is important to note what is stated around the 1:26 mark, where reporter Vicente Arenas asks Albrey, “So no one knew lionfish were a threat to rivers like this one?”, to which Albrey responded, “They didn’t. We certainly did not understand that. Lauren’s research showed they are”. However, according to this estuaries poster dated 2012 on which Albrey Arrington’s name appears as a co-author, it would seem as though this is clearly not the case, citing “We initially identified lionfish in the Loxahatchee River estuary (Jupiter, FL) in August 2010. This was the first documented estuarine intrusion of lionfish in the western Atlantic or Caribbean.” Lauren’s on-air segment begins at the time index of 2:15.

Jud went on to disclose that although he did include Lauren Arrington in the acknowledgements section, that there is now a petition online demanding that Arrington’s name be added as an author to Jud’s most recent scientific publication. Jud’s name has been excluded from all media, the viral photos, articles, and even the petition. Certainly, headlines like “Little girl’s science fair project gives scientists great new idea” do not help the situation.

 

Regarding an article on Society for Science written by Bethany Brookshire, Jud explained, “That article mentions me only because I spoke directly to the author. I actually got [Brookshire] in touch with the little girl for an interview, but she still twisted the story, and made it sound like I was unaware of the issue until after the science fair project. I gave her the accurate story, but after interviewing the girl and her dad, the story partially reverted back to its incorrect form.”

Jud continued, “I already contacted the little girl’s dad (who I know well) and very delicately voiced my concerns”.

Although fully aware Jud had his PhD and that the research was 100% Jud’s, Albrey allegedly responded, “They’re more interested in hearing from a real professor, not a grad student”.

Albrey acknowledged that his daughter had read the paper, and attended public lectures given by Jud and Layman explaining its results, before coming up with her idea to test the fish’s salinity tolerances experimentally. “Lauren cited the 2011 Jud et al. paper in her science fair report and display – so she adequately provided credit to the authors. Lauren’s experimental research was her own idea, and she did that work well before Dr. Jud and Dr. Layman conducted their experimental studies”, stated Albrey.

Jud maintains that news reports claiming that Layman was inspired by Arrington’s science fair project omit mention of Jud’s pre-existing plans to perform those experiments. Jud goes on to say, “It was something that I had discussed with my advisor numerous times since the first discovery of estuarine lionfish”, adding that his other work kept him from conducting the studies until after Lauren had done her science fair project. “As a busy PhD student, I had a number of other projects on my plate. The last thing I ever wanted to do is anything disparaging to a future young scientist”, said Jud. “It was just important for me to make sure that my years of research were recognized in conjunction with the young lady’s science fair project”, he continued.

“It was just important for me to make sure that my years of research were recognized in conjunction with the young lady’s science fair project. Having my research discussed at this level could certainly help kick-start my career”, said Jud.

The Central Florida Aquarium Society had covered the original story last month. Was the wool pulled over everyone’s eyes? It certainly seems that way. Credit should be given where credit is due, and for that, we sympathize with Dr. Zack Jud.

After our story broke, Jud e-mailed Arrington, asking that he acknowledge his contributions to the research in any future news interviews. “This is still 100% Lauren’s cool story and it is completely fine if my name isn’t mentioned at all, but if my research is brought up as a lead-in or follow-up to Lauren’s project, I would appreciate it if it was properly attributed to me”.

Arrington responded, “We have mentioned you frequently in nearly all interviews. We have provided PDFs of your publications to nearly all reporters. Of course, the reprints show you as first author. I trust you understand reporters typically make the call on how to build the story to maximize interest. It has been my experience that reporters are not as interested in linking Lauren with ‘just‘ a graduate student, rather they think it makes a way better headline to relate Lauren’s work to a ‘real professor‘”.

In subsequent news stories, Jud’s contributions to the work were rarely mentioned, with most referring to the follow-up research as Layman’s alone.

“It’s shocking to me that such a great story had such a negative twist to it despite my appeal to Dr. Arrington to properly attribute the research to me. My years of work were omitted from a very interesting story that otherwise did a very good job about exposing people around the USA to this invasive species entering coastal systems”, said Jud.

It is my opinion that this story has been blown out of proportion. “Ground breaking research” is a bit of a stretch.  Did it “shock ecologists”?  Not really. Finally, the core of most of the media stories are valid (although I can’t proof all of them – there have obviously been so many).  A young student did a really cool science project.  It related closely to, and facilitated, a bunch of other important findings about lionfish. I am glad tens of thousands of people now know about Zack’s research and Lauren’s project that never would have otherwise.

– Prof. Craig Layman, Ecologist, North Carolina State University

In an effort to clarify any misconceptions, Layman has provided a timeline on his blog  for the events regarding the lionfish research.



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Fischer Aitchtuoh

Fischer is an autonomous collector and conveyor of news, articles, and general information deemed relevant to hobbyists, enthusiasts, aquarists, horticulturalists, aquascapers and aquatic gardeners, conservationists, and industry members. Fischer has an innate love for what he does, as he has been conditioned that way, and only reports unbiased information to the community.
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  • https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=5140873 Gabriel Boggs

    I say if he has the proof that his research was published first let him show it and make people see the 12 year old and her dad stole his research without crediting him. Plagiarism gets you kicked out of college and grad programs and can ruin a scientist’s reputation, so why let it stand now just to “keep her interest up in science”

    • https://www.facebook.com/cflas Central Florida Aquarium Society – CFLAS.org

      Certainly a valid point, Gabriel.

    • VioletFem
    • VioletFem

      His previous research is available through Google Scholar.

    • Guest

      The sources are literally in the article.

    • RevDrG

      She cited the work in the 10th line of her discussion section. (Jud et al. 2011) That’s not plagiarism, that’s how science works- you base your work on the earlier work of others. You can see the triptych here (image based on original at NPR.org)

      • The_Truth_Seeker(TM)

        No citation of ANYTHING was made in connection with the 1st prize win of the 2004 Siemens Science “competition”. It was a complete sham, and 1200+ other student competitors never learned the truth about what happened. The news media and many, many journalists were also complicit and aided in the cover-up of this story, going on 10 years now!

        • allie

          please shut up about that now, people on this website have brains and can read your multiple spammings – even if you can’t comprehend the fact that you only need to say one thing once for it to be posted and readable.

          • The_Truth_Seeker(TM)

            Nope!! Not until the media admits what they did in 2004. How’s that! And who are you anyway, you don’t seem to want your other comments followed? Why all the hiding?

          • The_Truth_Seeker(TM)

            They don’t get notified about other postings of relevance to what they comment, unless they are replied to personally. The goal with comments is to get other people to read them, not just for your own amusement.

          • The_Truth_Seeker(TM)

            You didn’t even dispute the truthfulness of the comment (which I would advise not doing). Why is that? It’s very relevant to the very similar incident above, isn’t it?

    • Guestoronicus

      The young girl is likely blameless in the matter as direction and concepts were driven by her father. Plagiarism is likely off the table as he was listed on the paper directly, and it would be hard to argue that he stole from himself regardless of his true contribution to the work. Perhaps some sort of professional misconduct, but since he seems to have the socialite and good ole’ boy network sewn up I’m guessing nothing on that angle either. The best the world can hope for is that the girl realizes some day what her father did to her and simply expresses her disappointment in him

      • Chris

        Plagiarism is off the table, really? That’s not how my university taught me… Stealing from your own previous publications without clear citation is the same plagiarism as stealing from somebody else… your work was not original, end of story. Should get the girl the grade for her science fair, her dad the shame and the researcher the credit each deserves.

        • The_Truth_Seeker(TM)

          See above comments regarding what happened in the 2004 Siemens Science competition. The damage done by this scandal (fraud?) and its 10-year cover-up is still doing damage to the reputation of the actual, true, inventor of this device!

      • scienceinlaw

        I think a problem that exists though is for this girl to see that Jud’s work was both unattributed and unacknowledged in her work, press, etc. Unfortunately, the way for her to learn from this experience is to see that there are consequences. She’s 12, and she’s not culpable. But all press releases should now include updates to indicate that this is derivative work, and I do think that rewards for her success should be stripped. This isn’t intended to be punitive, but it should serve as a lesson to her and other students that duplicitous behavior cannot be rewarded.

        • The_Truth_Seeker(TM)

          No citation of ANYTHING was made in connection with the 1st prize win of the 2004 Siemens Science “competition”. It was a complete sham, and 1200+ other student competitors never learned the truth about what happened. The news media and many, many journalists were also complicit and aided in the cover-up of this story, going on 10 years now!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ninjamikemoore Michael Moore

    Wow…

  • Christopher Richards

    The paper was published several years ago. Case closed. Plagerism.

    • The_Truth_Seeker(TM)

      Have a look at the 2004 Siemens Science Competition, if you want to see an even more incredible academic scandal and it’s 10 year cover-up! This story has yet to be told and over 1200+ other students have never learned the truth of what really happened in 2004! Look up “Aaron Goldin 2004″

      We are now starting to go after all the news outlet “bastards” that refused to investigate this major scandal in 2004. In this case the student was almost 18 and ended up going to Harvard, with the help of his 1st prize win (which was just the “reinvention” of my much earlier & definitive invention of the same device).

  • Nix

    This is outrageous. The fathers response is awful. So Jud isn’t allowed to discourage the daughter but its ok for the father to be rude and vile to him, a young researcher doing groundbreaking work? That is not right. Something needs to be done especially about the father who should know better

  • doctorzen

    Author Bethany Brookshire, mentioned in this article, has updated her piece on the situation: https://twitter.com/scicurious/status/491958423550828544

  • Cattifer

    Reporters are notorious for telling a story for maximum impact. They use the quotes they want and shape the story into what they think will sell. I think its very likely that the girl and her father did give the credit to Jud, yet the story was still told in a more sensational way, painting the girl as a prodigy. People love stories about child prodigies.

    Also, the experiment was conducted by the girl. I don’t see anything wrong with a kid doing an experiment that had previously been conducted by someone else for a science fair project. It just happened here that she was the first one to do the experiment. That is pretty awesome for a 12 year old.

    How was she to know he had plans to do the same experiment if he only mentioned it to his advisor? Even if she did know that was exactly what he planned, this is a 12 year old, not a peer. She is getting media attention, not publishing scholarly articles in peer reviewed journals or submitting it as a thesis.

    • Recent PhD

      I do agree that it’s VERY common for the media to distort and sensationalize. However, I do think that the girl’s father (and perhaps the girl) actively contributed to that. In the CBS interview, Lauren mentions something about how everyone was studying lionfish in the oceans, and she was like, hey, what about the river? Her father confirms, on camera, that no one had been looking at this and that it came as a surprise. At the end, Lauren says that her reaction is that Jud’s research copied hers, and that it’s cool that it confirmed in her project.They have directly contributed to the spin that Lauren was the first to think of looking at these fish in the river and salinity tolerance, and that Jud’s later experimental trials were inspired by, and replicated, her project.

      The other issues is that her father was well aware that Jud and his advisor had planned to do similar trials–Jud and Layman discussed it, and Arrington was certainly aware with it. Layman encourage Jud to work on other aspects of this research, purportedly because there were other lab groups he thought were working on this project. Layman then worked with Arrington to help his daughter design the trials(he discusses this in the timeline on his blog).

      I don’t think this is plagiarism–she does cite the previous work. However, I do think that there is intentional intellectual dishonesty on the part of Dr. Arrington. He contributed to the claims that Lauren was the first to think about, or look at these ideas. This isn’t at all Lauren’s fault. She did a cool experiment, she was acknowledge in a scientific paper, and it’s understandable if she got caught up in the excitement of the press attention. However, Dr. Arrington is at fault for perpetuating that–in the interview, he could have easily said that colleagues were looking at this issue in field studies, and specifically mentioned Jud’s name.. It’s telling that Dr. Arrington only discusses the previous work as an inspiration, and that it was cited by Lauren, only AFTER Jud’s objections went public. Given how Dr. Arrington has handled it, I suspect that he guided Lauren to this project, and may have led her to believe that she was the first to think of doing laboratory trials.

      This isn’t a case of a former graduate student getting upset that a little girl is stealing his thunder. It’s a case that a former collaborator was misrepresenting the novelty of the project, leaving out Jud’s extensive work on different aspects of this issue (as well as Jud’s plans/discussions to discuss experimental trials). Dr. Arrington is also at fault for letting the media believe that Jud only conducted the later salinity trials BECAUSE he got the idea from Lauren.

      The reason I’m very interested in this situation is because I’ve know of many variations of this story with other research groups. The only difference is that in this case, the daughter of one of the scientists gets caught in the middle. Graduate students pour their entire lives into their dissertation research. It becomes both their personal and academic identity. But their work is often mis-attributed to advisors. Some of that is a media issue. But there are also other scientists that take credit for their student’s work when it gets media attention, as well as many situations in which graduate advisors or senior colleagues steal ideas from their graduate students, and pass the off as their own. So Jud is justified in feeling wronged by Dr. Arrington, and essential, this is a dispute over academic dishonesty at a professional level, rather than simply in a girl’s science fair project or poor science journalism.

      As a scientist, Dr. Arrington should be teaching Lauren proper scientific conduct and ethics.He should have encouraged her to properly acknowledge the work that inspired her research, and he absolutely should have disclosed in media interviews (particularly the CBS one) that this project was directly related to research by a group he collaborated with. And as a scientist, it’s Dr. Arrington’s duty to be honest about the scientific process, which is always a result of different pieces of the puzzle building on each other.

      I’m glad that Jud raised this issue. I’ve recently had talks with friends about how to handle situations in which advisors or senior scientists steal ideas, or take credit for their students dissertation research. in most variations of this story (which is a pattern), the advisor often encourages the student to change their study to a different focus, and then takes the idea to either carry out himself, or passes it on to collaborate with other other senior scientists or lower level grad students/masters students. I’ve even heard cases of a professor rejecting the student’s application to the program, and then carrying out the project the student proposed in her application materials. Right now I’ve been involved with a lot of discussions about how to handle this, because if the person with lower power/credentials raises the issue, it usually backfires against them.

      • Cattifer

        Those are some very good points. I think the father is acting pretty unethically if he’s making those claims, because he worked directly with Jud.

        I think the science project itself is aboveboard. However, if the father is going around making false claims, there could be some legal repercussions like theft or intellectual property or even defamation because this is harming Jud’s professional reputation.

        I think speaking out on this issue is important because you are completely correct about how common this type of thing is in the academic world. It seems particularly spiteful to take years of work and give the credit to a 12 year old.

      • The_Truth_Seeker(TM)

        Have a look at the 2004 Siemens Science Competition, if you want to see an even more incredible academic scandal and it’s 10 year cover-up! This story has yet to be told and over 1200+ other students have never learned the truth of what really happened in 2004! Look up “Aaron Goldin 2004″

        We are now starting to go after all the news outlet “bastards” that refused to investigate this major scandal in 2004. In this case the student was almost 18 and ended up going to Harvard, with the help of his 1st prize win (by just reproducing MY much earlier & definitive work on the subject).

    • The_Truth_Seeker(TM)

      Have a look at the 2004 Siemens Science Competition, if you want to see an even more incredible academic scandal and it’s 10 year cover-up! This story has yet to be told and over 1200+ other students have never learned the truth of what really happened in 2004! Look up “Aaron Goldin 2004″

      We are now starting to go after all the news outlet “bastards” that refused to investigate this major scandal in 2004. In this case the student was almost 18 and ended up going to Harvard, with the help of his 1st prize win (based on MY, much earlier, work).

  • http://www.facebook.com/stephanie.groleau Stephanie Groleau Peters

    I personally know Zack and as a fellow scientist/engineer can back his claims. Read his research. Read professional journals. Shame on that girl’s dad.

    • The_Truth_Seeker(TM)

      Have a look at the 2004 Siemens Science Competition, if you want to see an even more incredible academic scandal and it’s 10 year cover-up! This story has yet to be told and over 1200+ other students have never learned the truth of what really happened in 2004! Look up “Aaron Goldin 2004″

      We are now starting to go after all the news outlet “bastards” that refused to investigate this major scandal in 2004. In this case the student was almost 18 and ended up going to Harvard, with the help of his 1st prize win (based on MY, much earlier, work).

  • Peaches

    her dad is an manipulative entitled jerk. The girl didn’t mean any harm.

    I hope her dad isn’t an academic. I have heard of advising professors stealing ideas off their graduate students.

    If an advising professor feels vindictive or feels on a whim they want to screw a grad student, there’s little to stop it. My friend didn’t complete his second masters because of an unethical advising professor. He suffered from anxiety since.

    • The_Truth_Seeker(TM)

      See the 2004 Siemens Science competition and consider what happened there! It makes this look pretty pale in comparison because journalists still don’t want to publicly admit their role in the 10-year long cover-up of THAT scandal!

  • The_Truth_Seeker(TM)

    Have a look at the 2004 Siemens Science Competition, if you want to see an even more incredible academic scandal and it’s 10 year cover-up! This story has yet to be told and over 1200+ other students have never learned the truth of what really happened in 2004! Easiest way to find lots of links is to look up “Aaron Goldin 2004″ (though Mr. Golding may have also been a pawn in this 10 year old deception and fraud).

    We are now starting to go after all the news outlet “bastards” that refused to investigate this major scandal in 2004. In this case the student was almost 18 and ended up going to Harvard, with the help of his 1st prize win (by just reproducing MY much earlier & definitive work on the subject).

  • The_Truth_Seeker(TM)

    No one listened in 2004!!! Journalists were in on the cover-up of the 2004 academic scandal, that was MUCH BIGGER and much more serious, than this one! That one involved a 17 year old who knew exactly what he was doing.

  • The_Truth_Seeker(TM)

    This is also a very relevant Op Ed piece on the dubious value of these kinds of science fairs (and who they really help): Since links aren’t allowed, look up:

    “Intel high science contest is overrated” by Norman Matloff