Blog and online journal with editorial content about science, art and nature.

Monat: Dezember, 2020

Bullying by the Museum of Natural History in Berlin/ Mobbing durch das Berliner Naturkundemuseum?

This article is about a conflict since 2013 until today that I had and still have with the Museum of Natural History in Berlin, which I already accused in 2013 to perform a (homophobically motivated) bullying against me. In 2019 I finally complained to the petition committee of the Berliner Abgeordnetenhaus. They sent me statements from the museum management, Prof. Dr. Vogel, regarding my complaints, and according to that, they do not deny the bullying accusation, but stated :

"You have never been an employee of the museum and are therefore not under
 the scope of the General Equal Treatment Act"

As I felt since 2013 so heavily bullied by that institution and in such an intensity that I despite of my very good CV-reputation could never receive any employment in a German research institution at all (abroad I could once). I in 2019 had asked at least for a certification by the museum that I worked with them for some years, wrote several peer-review publications for them and even organized the loaning of a very expensive light-microscope (Zeiss-Axiophot) from the FU Berlin for my use and the use of Dr. Jason Dunlop from the Museum of Natural History. The certification had helped to limit further bullying influences, when recently applying to research positions. Prof. Vogel answered to the petition committee the following regarding that point:

"A certificate can not be issued, 
as you are not entitled to receive a certificate based on your
voluntary work in the museum"

A remarkable part of my mite specimens consisting of holo- and paratypes as well as voucher specimens is part of the museum collection being curated by Dr. Jason Dunlop. The museum denies me access to that material with one short interruption since 2013. I loaned that material to the museum, material, which I collected and prepared based on my private income only. The museum was asked in my petition to return it to me.

"You had been given the opportunity to examine the described
reference material from mites for your work. Another access to the museum
however, cannot be granted to you."

The mite material represents my so far lifework. To discover new species like Histiostoma palustre from Berlin or Histiostoma blomquisti from the red imported fire ant in Louisiana (USA), I invested all my energy, my sweat, my time, and in case of my ant work even my blood. The Museum of Natural History excludes me from the results of my own heavy productivity. the text indicates that the museum, represented by Prof. Vogel, has a right to decide about material, which I consider my property. I do not have a contract nor was I ever paid for these mite objects, I just rent them to the museum. I had repeatedly asked to receive my material back, as not only my access to it is denied by the museum, but and also the access for other scientists is limited.

"The collections of the Museum für Naturkunde 
in Berlin are indeed a scientific infrastructure,

but they are not a public body for those working in science or for
other interested parties with an unrestricted access."

My intention was and is to transfer the types and vouchers permanently to another museum, which allows me and other scientists access to it, that my material can be a well suitable support for future scientific interests and research by me and others. I additionally doubt that the material is treated adequately as Mr. Dunlop is arachnologist, but no acarologist. The petition committee and the committee of „Regierender Bürgermeister von Berlin“ stated about the property conditions of my mite-collection:

"The ownership of those specific exhibits cannot be conclusively judged 
(decided) from here (our side). To this extent,
only the ordinary legal action can answer this question."

I thus via this article ask lawyers with corresponding experiences to support me in this context, which I consider being a property offence even with the purpose to harm my public reputation! Committed lawyers please contact me via twitter private message.

What had happened originally to feel bullied by the museum and the former colleague Mr. Dr. Jason Dunlop?

I applied in June 2012, recommended by a colleague, who was researcher at the Karl-Franzens-Universität in Graz (Austria), for an official tender for a lecturer position at his university, the Karl-Franzens-Universität. The colleague G. was seemingly not sure about the integrity of the application procedure, as he wrote on 18.06.2012 at 7:37 am:

„Es ist auch nicht sicher, ob Herr S… (I shortened the full name, S. Wirth) für die Stelle nicht schon jemanden im Auge hat; also bitte erwarte Dir nicht zuviel.

It is also not certain whether Mr. S... 
(I shortened the name, S. Wirth) already has someone in
 mind for the position; so please don't expect too much."

I applied nevertheless believing in a fair process. But I indeed was officially informed that I didn’t get the position despite of my high reputation via Email on 06.08.2012 at 7:29 pm. Subsequently I asked for an explication for not having been chosen as candidate. I received an answer on 9.08.2012 at 12:33 pm by Mrs. C. H.-R.:

„Ich darf in diesem Zusammenhang betonen, dass diese Auswahlentscheidung auch vom Arbeitskreis für Gleichbehandlungsfragen der Universität bestätigt wurde.

In this context, I would like to emphasize 
that this selection decision was also confirmed by
 the university's work group for equal treatment."

That meant for me that the decision officially was made by preference for a person of female gender. I first asked for reasons not to be selected. Later additionally I complained against so called „equal treatment“ on 10.08.2012 to Mrs. R. with the words:

„…. Um den Verdacht auszuräumen, dass die Ausschreibung nur eine Formalität war, also eine Schein-Ausschreibung, und dass in Wirklichkeit jemand aus den eigenen Reihen die Stelle bekommen hat (und dies möglicherweise von vornherein feststand), bitte ich hiermit darum, mir mitzuteilen, wer die Stelle bekommen hat….

In order to dispel the suspicion that the 
job advertisement was only a formality, i.e. a sham job advertisement,
 and that in reality someone from your own ranks
got the position (and this may have been determined in advance),  
I hereby ask you to let me know who got the job."

I got an answer only to my first question from that Mr. S., who is mentioned in the mail from 18.06.2012 at 7:37 further above. The answer is from 09.08.2012 at 8:16 pm:

„… Ich habe mir die Auswahl der Kandidatin bzw. des Kandidaten für diese Stelle nicht leicht gemacht. Es war in der Tat sehr knapp und Sie wären mit Sicherheit an Nummer 1 oder 2 gereiht worden, wenn bei dieser Ausschreibung die wissenschaftliche Erfahrung bzw. Leistung im Vordergrund gestanden wäre. Wir haben eine befristete und nicht verlängerbare Halbtags-Lecturerstelle besetzt, wo natürlich die spezifische Erfahrung in Bezug auf die abzuhaltenden Lehrveranstaltungen im Vordergrund war und hier waren andere KandidatInnen näher am Fach. So ist das nun einmal. …

...I didn't make it easy for myself to
 select the candidate for this position. It was indeed very tight and you would certainly have
 been ranked number 1 or 2 if the focus of this tender had been on scientific experience or performance. 
We have filled a temporary and non-extendable half-day lecturer position, where of
 course the specific experience in relation to 
the courses to be held was in the foreground and
 here other candidates were closer to the subject. That's the way it is....

I got never an official answer, who the position got, except of that it was a female candidate. but I already had before asked the colleague G. , who had answered already on 06.08. 2012 at 3:06 pm:

„Hi Stefan,

…wahrscheinlich darf ich das gar nicht mitteilen, deshalb bitte vertraulich behandeln, bis es offiziell ist: …… B… (I shortened the female name, S. Wirth), eine E. (i shortened the name, S. Wirth)-Schülerin.

... I am probably not allowed to tell you,
 so please keep it confidential until it is official:
 ... B.(I shortened the female name), 
an E. student (I shortened the name of a professor
 of the same institution, a direct colleague of Mr. S. from above)."

Shocked by this mixture of by me perceived inbreeding, corruption and gender discrimination, I complained finally against the whole candidate finding procedure and officially asked for the repetition of the whole procedure, based on the fact that I am homosexual, and because homosexual men are more discriminated than women. The repetition application was approved, but it only (of course) confirmed the first decision.

Subsequently I perseived something like „a bomb“ of bullying activities against me in the German-spoken countries, especially in Berlin from side of the Museum of natural History, where I was volunteer (ehrenamtlicher Mitarbeiter) and where I had my official scientific affiliation, which I used to name in my scientific publications and from side of the FU Berlin (only periodically), where I was still teaching courses in evolutionary biology and ecology. but the worst consequences came from the Museum of Natural History in Berlin, where I had published already in 9 November 2011 a very successful paper with much international attention together with Dr. Jason Dunlop and technical scientists from Manchester (UK) :

Dunlop1  J. A., Wirth1 S., Penney2 D.,  McNeil3  A., Bradley3R.S., Withers3 P. J.,Preziosi2 R. F. (2011): A tiny phoretic mite deutonymph in Baltic amber recovered by X-ray computed tomography. Biology letters doi:10.1098/rsbl.2011.0923.

Apart from not being named as a first author together with Mr. Dunlop, which I only finally was informed about in 2013, as the small numbers on top of the author’s names seemed me to indicate an equal level of authorship, but it came out that it just referred to the same author’s address and apart from my name not being mentioned in the English-written press-releases of that very successful paper (about the tiniest animal ever in Baltic amber examined in a high resolution ct-magnification without the need to harm the amber itself) my name was from end 2012 to 23 September 2013 10:30 am entirely removed from side-publications of the same paper, especially in a poster presentation on the poster itself (much delayed finally added to it) and the corresponding online-abstract-publication (until 23 September 2013 10:30 am never added to it). A corresponding poster award, given by the Museum of Natural History, was not given too me at first, but to the other authors. I got it much delayed on my strict demand only.

I complained against these happenings and interpreted them as homophobically motivated bullying with a direct context to my complaints to the Karl-Franzes-University, where I had officially outed myself as gay and had officially criticized a perceived unclean application-procedure, being additionally based on gender unequality. My complaint referred in major parts to the happenings subsequently to the happenings in Graz. But I additionally considered the previous unexpected second authorship (I did all scientific work regarding the mite fossil interpretation including all paintings and most text parts, as I am and was the only expert for this group of mites in Germany) and the deletion of my name from international press releases as bullying too. This part of bullying as result of a harsh elbow mentality and putatively homophobic too, as there was a rumor of my homosexuality circulating at the FU before, as the female phd-student N.W. had interrogated me on a Christmas-celebration event in detail about my from her side assumed homosexuality.

As I got no excuses nor any compensations from side of the museum or from Mr. Dunlop, I partly needed to find harsh words to criticize, what happened to me from side of the museum (later also from side of the FU Berlin, but from there only periodically, they in 2019 wrote me without any difficulties a certification for my work in their house). Subsequently and finally in 23 September 2013 I was invited to a conference about my accusations by Mr. S. Junker (until today „Geschäftsführer Naturkundemuseum“) and some other witnesses. They did not intend to excuse, what happened to me, but let me know that I was no first author of the paper and thus had no rights about it. I then presented a print of the still in that time online published poster abstract being entirely without my name, which seemingly was unknown to the the people of that conference and also seemingly shocked them too. There was a visible feeling of unjustice noticeable in their faces, but still no excuses nor any try of compensation. I lately on this conference had announced to leave the museum based on these happenings and about a week later picked up all my belongings from there. Equipped with that harsh feeling of being bullied and of a general unjustice, I never did one step into that museum again. Except of once, where I needed to visit a further away building, belonging to it in order to receive the holotype of my species Bonomoia opuntiae, which I loaned for some time. I needed much to fight for that option, as my wish to see it was repeatedly denied. I then got it in harmed conditions. They excused that by saying it would sometimes happen to glycerine-slides (what I still doubt about), and I finally returned it in the same conditions. That is, what Mr. Vogel meant with writing that I once enough had had the opportunity to examine „the material“ for my scientific work. I never again got access to my own mite material. A terrible punishment for someone, who had invested all his life time into his acarological work.

To the petition commettee, Mr Vogel argued the restriction of access to my material in 2019 with the following words:

"You had to be banned from the house in 2013,
 because you were facing the 
museum staff continued in inappropriate
and expressed insulting ways 
so that they felt threatened."

I was never in a written or a spoken way informed about such a ban to enter the house. Because of such a lack, a house ban did never happen. It was imposed subsequently in 2019. According to my perseption based on the will to negatively influencing my scientific reputation. Even in the situation, in which me as a victim I got no excuse or compensation, nobody had trusted additionally to even impose a penalty in those times. I never threatened somebody in my life, thus this is a mean defamation, and additionally my communication against the strongly perceived bullying cannot be named inappropriate at all. from the point of legal justice, in this context the term „felt“ is most important. Unfortunately, everybody can feel something, even, when it is not there. If you have a reason to feel threatened, you officially report an offence. If you just want to bully: say you felt threatened in public. Me as an intellectual and as a person, well known for his passion for nature research, has nothing to do with performing offences or feelings of being threatened. Bullying is a crime. I herewith want to refer to one of my last articles about bullying. But in Germany, it is not a crime according to criminal law. This makes it a perfect weapon to eliminate unwanted people.

But what is the sense of bullying from today back into the past by imposing a house ban, which in fact did not exist in this past, sounds not very efficiently, doesn’t it? That’s why Mr. Vogel needed a second paragraph to this topic, this time directed to the future:

"Also taking into account the rules
for good scientific practice
a weighting of interests by the museum management 
...came to the result that the concerns of 
the employees of the Museums are more worth of being
 protected.The house ban is therefore upheld."

i interpret this statement as admission that the Museum of natural history in Berlin and Mr. Vogel acted aware and on purpose against the rules for good scientific practice. I as I said of course I did never threatened anybody and even everybody knows that, let’s not talk about, what they felt again, let’s talk about, what happened. After many years even to „upheld“ a house ban (elongation of a non existing ban in the past) is the most easiest way of bullying. One just needs to say to colleagues on a conference something like „Oh, Mr. so-and-so? He has a house ban in our institute. Do I need to say more?“. Very efficiently and fully destroying! Can I fight against the life-time house ban as basis for the denied access to my own mite collection? The petition committee answered this in the same document with no:

"The museum management is responsible
for exercising domiciliary rights within the framework of 
 their duties at discretion." 

That means, in that case there is no option for legal actions against a house ban existing, because there are no legal reasons necessary to ban somebody from a house. It simply means for me and my perception: Bullying goes on!

But what about the facts? All happenings around the paper about the amber fossil? To that topic Mr. Vogel answered to the petition committee as follows:

"The museum had your other allegations
checked by an ombudsman, who
came to the conclusion that no scientific 
 misconduct by scientists
of the museum happened."

Who was this „ombudsman“, who decided that publishing an abstract with my drawings, my private photo of the recent mite Histiostoma blomquisti and with my text passages, and all that without my name at all is NO misconduct by the corresponding scientist(s)? Was this ombudsman the cleaning woman of the museum, who thus could earn some extra-salary? Or is the important information in this statement the term „of the museum“? Does it mean, it would be of course a misconduct, when performed by any scientists, but not, when they belong to the museum staff? As Mr. Vogel intends to keep all critical eyes away from the reputation of his famous museum? I subsequently instructed an ombudsman-committee (a legal and well known in scientific fields one) from my side too. I unfortunately am not allowed to publish details of the corresponding correspondence. But the correspondence is well saved. Purpose of my ombudsman-committee was only about to get my mite collection permanently transferred to another museum. I then rejected their indeed finally small success, according to which the collection would have been loaned to another museum for the duration of two years, as fully inappropriate.

But why would the management of the Museum of Natural History react in such unacceptable and harming ways on my complaints from 2013 about a specific researcher and its behaviors against me? My answer is: bullying is the most used weapon in Germany, but it exists nowhere. Institutions fear for their reputation and seemingly even prefer the destruction of the reputation of the victims. My life and career is since 2013 remarkably harmed. I just survive based on my enormous energy and productivity and passion for research. I herewith ask my readers for support. Wherever I apply to in the field of scientific research or museum work, it is denied without invitations at least for a first interview. Is there anybody out there, who has a feeling for justice and even made bad experiences with bullying and seemingly corrupt position procedures in the world of natural sciences, especially biology him/herself? Please contact me via private message on twitter.

German written relevant part of the document from the petition committee of Berlin from 2019, which includes the English citations in my text.

Homophobic tendencies are unfortunately generally widespread in the fields of evolutionary biology. On 3 August 2020 the well known evolutionary biologist from the university of Kassel, Prof. Ulrich Kutschera, was sentenced by a trial for insulting homosexuals by bringing them close to pedophilia to pay a penalty of 6000 Euro.

The judgment is not yet legally binding.

He in detail stated besides other things in an interview with the catholic church (Internet portal

„Sollte das Adoptionsrecht für Mann-Mann bzw. Frau-Frau-Erotikvereinigungen kommen, sehe ich staatlich geförderte Pädophilie und schwersten Kindesmissbrauch auf uns zukommen.

Should the adoption rights come for man-man or woman-woman 
erotic associations, I see state-sponsored pedophilia
 and serious child abuse coming our way. "

I had much email communication with U. Kutschera about male homosexuality in general and his assumed case of a tendency towards pedophilia under certain circumstances. He could not prove based on serious scientific findings his incredible theories to me!

But back to the topic of bullying:

Let’s play a little game with you, my readers: Just theoretically, imagine the author of this article would apply to the position offer of the museum of natural history in Potsdam, just because his CV according to his professional self-assessment exactly fits, to what they are looking for? Would he have a chance to be at least invited for a first interview? Let’s indeed regard it as a given fact that his qualifications are fitting very, very good to the job profile. So: Would he be invited?…. What? So many readers voting for „no“? Why? What did you say?…. „Because he is „gay“? Oh, no…,no,…. that one goes too far „because he even might be a pedophilist and because state-sponsored pedophilia needs to be prevented“. Ah….please again! That one is interesting:… „because he fights against bullying, which he perceives to have happened against him from another museum of natural history very nearby and because he is gay“. Really interesting, but I have a question: Where should he apply then, always under the conditions of very well fitting qualifications?….. I see, so you mean „may be in a small and isolated village in the Bavarian Alps, inhabited by non-conservative-religious people, let’s say a neo-hippie-community, who pays his scientific work with home grown potatoes“?…… I agree, but still, I have doubts…. What did you recommend? ….“Not Germany and no well known countries at all“? But where then?….. „Timbuktu“? ?? Why not! I like this idea very much.

Citations in my text out of the document from the petition committee of Berlin about my complaints against Naturkundemuseum Berlin were changed from indirect speech to direct speech, staying in the second person singular.

Mite Histiostoma blomquisti. Its holotype is not accessible for me in the collection of the Museum of Natural History Berlin. Copyrights: Stefan F. Wirth

Dr. Stefan Wirth, 19 December 2020

Germany on the way from a part-lockdown to a full-lockdown?

Leaders of the German national subsidiaries and the federal government, above all the chancellor Merkel, ask for stricter contact limitations. Although the current conditions in form of a part-lockdown as reaction to increasing numbers of covid-19-infections throughout Germany restrict numbers of people, who are allowed to meet up inside or outside as well as the numbers of households, to which they belong, already remarkably. All public places for socializing and cultural activities are closed, also sport clubs, public swimming trainings or outdoor sport activities in greater groups are impossible. That means, bars, cafés, restaurants are closed. Theaters and opera houses as well. Especially „smaller“ stage artists suffer existentially.

Only the german football (soccer) is still omni-present in the news reports. I don’t know why. Seemingly their games can happen under limited circumstances. I am not interested in football at all. It is also not football, which is since the beginning of the human evolution a major fundament of our societies, it’s art. Art is not only creativity, it also stands for legal criticism against all aspects of social and political interactions. Thus something important is missing. And private life? It is already in the recent part-lockdown harmed in a way, that acts against the human biology as social primates. Not only old people in retirement homes live almost under conditions of a dentation centre, also single-persons of all ages, living in smaller apartments, need to tolerate loneliness. The Homo sapiens is a social species, too much isolation can cause longtime-damages, emotionally, psychologically, in case of older people even physically. Not to forget those citizens without any kind of home. The many homeless people, especially in Berlin, are very sensible victims of recent restrictions. Are all these risks, the Germans actually are exposed to, worth to happen? I think yes, they are, if it is for a limited time and under circumstances, which do not cause more damages than the virus infections themselves. It is fact that the new corona virus can be harmful to people of all ages, especially when there are significant medical histories existing. But as all these sanctions represent limitations of our basic laws, it is important that all these limitations are reversed when the pandemic is over.

Critical questions are allowed. They are also important and necessary. And you even do not need to be a believer of modern religious movements like Qanon. I for example ask for the relevance of indirect contacts between individuals for the still too high infection numbers. When I see super markets, forcing their clients to use shopping baskets or trolleys without employees existing, who desinfect each of them before and after use, then I hear the virus clapping amused its non existing hands: „We couldn’t get you so far? Here we are, left behind from hundreds of people per day, who touched this basket or this trolley before!“ Are such contra- productive rules necessary, even when the argument is that baskets and cars force a proper distance between customers? Also in U-Bahn cars (subway etc.), trams or busses, an indirect virus transfer between passengers needs to be much better prevented . Shouldn’t it be possible to employ people, who permanently walk through the cars and desinfect seats and handrails whenever possible?

As a natural scientist and active researcher as well as reviewer for scientific journals I know that statistics generally bear many reasons for critical questions. It can easily happen that submitted natural-scientific papers in peer-review journals are rejected by the reviewers based on doubtful or insufficient or even wrong statistical methods. We read or hear in the news permanently about growing incidence numbers. Many people might think that these are given facts, about which questions or critical remarks are not appropriate or necessary. Based on the limited informations via the popular media, the following questions are very sure and from a scientific point of view of interest: How many people of a specific region, for example a district of Berlin, were tested and how many were not? In case of higher numbers of non-tested citizens, statistical means need to be used in order to extrapolate to the whole population of the corresponding region. It is important that a statistical variance within the tested people is guaranteed. There would for example be a lack of a sufficient variance, if it came out that specific genders or specific occupational groups had more reasons or even forces to participate test procedures than others. Statistical tests always have a defined probability of errors. But more and illegitime errors can for examples be added, when research institutions need to provide a defined high number of data in a defined period of time, especially when the procedure is well paid and „success“ thus economically important. According to my knowledge and experiences, scientific studies can only be finished, when they are finished. Evaluations in defined time periods with defined numbers of sample sizes are prone to error. I know from commercial institutions for market and opinion research that the time pressure is often or sometimes used for the disadvantage of a sufficient variation of test persons. Some facilitate their work by contacting such people for phone interviews, who’s telephone numbers were part of a commercial phone number trading. That means they buy existing phone numbers instead of generating them via a random number generator. Additionally/ or they facilitate statistical methods, which were developed to guarantee a variation of test persons. An example is the „Geburtstagsschlüssel (birthday key)“, which requires from the interviewer to strictly only talk to that person of a household, who was the last to have birthday or alternatively will be the next to celebrate it. If that person, so the rules, is not available, the interview cannot happen. Based on economic interests of the institutions and the time pressure, facilitated versions of the „birthday-key“ are sometimes used. Such as: asking for the birthday person in the household, and if the person is not available interviewing everybody available instead, or even leaving the birthday key completely out. Results of such „manipulated“ evaluations can be representative nevertheless. But they also might not be representative at all. There exist examples for extrapolations of upcoming electoral successes, being far removed from the real situations. What does all this have to do with evaluations about covid-19-infection numbers? I hope that independent sources regularly control the responsible research institutions regarding the proper use of statistical methods even under time pressure conditions.

In case it is made sure that indeed bars, restaurants, theaters and opera houses and not indirect contaminations elsewhere or statistical errors or manipulations cause the permanently high numbers of new infections everywhere in Germany, a total lockdown will be unavoidable. The German government and the federal state representatives will come together for further deliberations still before Christmas. This was announced in the news today. It is important that the decision for stricter measures need to take those groups of the German population under consideration, which might physically, psychologically or financially too much harmed by a full-lockdown over a longer period of time. It furthermore needs to be excluded that participating politicians have other motivations than protecting us from a pandemic virus, such as lust for power, interest in totalitarian experiments or a total lack of empathy.

Berlin, 08.12.2020, copyrights Stefan F. Wirth