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Plagiarism of my work by others

I have spent nearly three years trying to resolve these issues through institutional and legal avenues. It has proven well nigh impossible. The best disinfectant now is broad daylight. Everything I write here is carefully documented and free of speculation or innuendo, nothing is shown out of context, and no exculpatory evidence has been omitted.

Derby falsely accuses me of publishing fraud

I quit working for Jeff Derby in October, 2014. For the previous three years I had worked approximately one-half time on a subcontract to Stanford. Robert Feigelson was the PI. I worked alone on this project. Derby participated only as an observer.

In April, 2016 I submitted a paper to Journal of Crystal Growth based on this work. I had shown this paper to both Derby and Feigelson two years earlier. Neither of them had shown any interest in the work, and according to Derby he never read the paper until after it was published. Every bit of this work was most assuredly my own. It was my academic scholarship, and under the terms of my employment with the University of Minnesota, and under the ethical norms of my profession, it was my perfect right to publish it without interference. Indeed, it was my obligation to disseminate my research under the usual terms of a federal research grant. Interfering with my dissemination of it violates those terms.

The paper appeared at the end of May, 2016, and three weeks later Derby emailed a letter to Thomas Kuech, Principal Editor of Journal of Crystal Growth, falsely accusing me of publishing fraud. He courtesy copied this letter to Feigelson. His accusation was extraordinary. His own claim to authorship was based on an alleged contribution that was never made, but that was also trivial on its face. More extraordinary yet was his claim that Feigelson and others should also be made co-authors, based on purported contributions and interactions which Derby never witnessed and for which he had no evidence.

Principal editor is recused by publisher, Derby backs down

I submitted a rebuttal and suggested that Kuech recuse himself for some very obvious reasons. He did not. I heard nothing for four months. Then I received an incredible email from Kuech saying that he intended to publish an editorial "expression of concern" that would clearly be harmful to me and helpful to Derby. This note would say that Feigelson and others at Stanford should have been credited as co-authors, according to Jeff Derby. There was no mention of Derby's prior claim to co-authorship in the note.

I protested this and threatened legal action. I was contacted by the publisher informing me that Kuech had been recused. Derby was told the matter would be referred to the University of Minnesota for evaluation and that Feigelson would be contacted about it too, whereupon Derby dropped his claim altogether.

Derby made a dramatic and very damaging accusation that he could not sustain. I submitted a thorough, convincing, and painstakingly documented rebuttal to his accusation. His response to the rebuttal, if any, was never shown to me. He silently dropped his claim to co-authorship but persisted in his proxy claim for Feigelson. That too was dropped.

Derby has been an associate editor at the journal for over twenty years. There was no merit to his allegations against me. In fact the allegations were ridiculous, and the proxy attempt on Feigelson's behalf was bizzare. I believe that letting him remain as associate editor undermines the publisher's credibility. I also believe that the publisher and editor have acted with bias against me.

The unexplained role of Robert Feigelson

Derby's original email to Kuech with its unfounded accusations against me was courtesy copied to Feigelson. When I replied to Kuech with my rebuttal, I wrote that I would not address any proxy claim made by Derby on behalf of others. Feigelson could make his own claim if he thought he had one. It would certainly be taken seriously. He is on the editorial board of the journal.

When Kuech told me about his expression of concern, I reiterated that it was inappropriate for Derby to make this claim on behalf of Feigelson. Again I challenged him to produce a valid claim from Feigelson that I could rebut. None was ever given. By every appearance Feigelson was on onlooker to all this, and there is nothing in his actions to suggest that he disputes the publication of my paper under my name alone.

I don't get it. Derby writes a letter to Kuech claiming that I stiffed Feigelson. Four months later Kuech writes to tell me he is going to publish an editor's note saying that Jeff Derby says I stiffed Feigelson. Feigelson says nothing this entire time about whether he thinks I stiffed him or not. Is that what really happened? Should I mention again that these three are associate editor, principal editor, and editorial board member at the journal?

I should mention that another point of contention broke out between me and Feigelson during the course of these events. He submitted a paper to the Journal of Crystal Growth on which I was listed as co-author without informing me or showing me the manuscript first. As a member of the editorial board he should know this is not allowed. To submit a paper it is required to submit a letter certifying that all authors had checked the manuscript.

The story of what happened with this paper reflects poorly on several people, the details of which are found in this letter I sent to Gerald Stringfellow, chair of the editorial board. Stringfellow never responded. Please take the time to read it, the abuses I describe there seem remarkable.

Derby threatens to publish Cats2D

The central role of Cats2D in Derby's research group

Eleven of the last thirteen disserations produced in the Derby group were based entirely or mostly on results computed by Cats2D. It is a unique and valuable tool. It has been cited in over fifty works published by Derby and his students. It is a class of specialty software that ordinarily costs tens of thousands of dollars per year to license in the commercial market. A partial list of works featuring results computed by Cats2D is found here and a gallery featuring simulations of ten different crystal growth systems is found here.

Derby threatens to publish Cats2D in the public domain

When Derby abandoned his authorship claims against me he sent an email notable for several things. First of all, there is no apology for having tried to ruin my reputation with false accusations that he could not sustain. His excuses are not credible in light of his behavior. I find his manner disrespectful and offensive. Bear in mind that he had already begun a wave of plagiarism against me by then.

In this same email Derby states that he is considering publishing Cats2D in the public domain. I view this as a threat. He had been bringing this idea up for several years when I still worked for him and I always declined to consider it. He knew it was my software and he would have never dared to suggest doing such a thing unilaterally back then.

Also in this email Derby misrepresents Goodwin's position on publishing Cats2D. Goodwin and I have consciously protected the proprietary ownership of Cats2D since its inception in 1991. Goodwin would never say anything to give any impression otherwise and I have confirmed with him that no such impression was conveyed by him to Derby.

I hire attorney to stop publication of Cats2D and protect my ownership

Publishing Cats2D in the public domain would have caused great problems to me and Goodwin. Clawing it back, so to speak, would be a costly legal mess. My attorney urgently sent a letter to the U legal office warning of legal consequences if the code was published. The U legal office replied that it would tell Derby to refrain from doing so.

Derby plagiarizes my academic scholarship

In the summer of 2016, shortly after accusing me of publishing fraud, Derby submitted two papers to Journal of Crystal Growth. I made highly significant contributions pivotal to the success of the work reported in these papers, but was not credited as co-author. After I discovered the publication of these plagiarized works I sent emails to the publisher asking that corrections be published naming me as co-author of them, which you can read here and here. I also sent emails contesting several gift authorships Derby had bestowed on others, found here and here. The publisher acknowledged receiving these emails but it appears that no action was ever taken in response to them.

The paper of Peterson, Derby, and one guest author

Fifteen months ago my attorney submitted a misconduct allegation to the University of Minnesota concerning this paper. The narrative and supporting documents provided to the U in support of this allegation are found here. The U spent eight months screening this allegation, then started an inquiry that seems to remain open seven months later. University policy stipulates that an inquiry be completed in 60 days. The languid pace of the U is making a joke out of their policies and procedures, which just might be intentional.

I was astonished to see this work published without my name in the author list. Problems of this class are extraordinarily difficult to model correctly, even using expensive commercial codes. Cats2D is highly specialized and uniquely powerful at solving problems of this class because of me. I gave the student a turnkey setup to this problem for this work without which it could not be done, then I gave this student expert advice and training it its use that only I can give. Ignoring these contributions was wrong.

The paper of Tao, Derby, and five guest authors

This is a similar situation. Here are the narrative and supporting documents I submitted to the U. This problem is even more difficult than the traveling heater problem. It is a tour de force of the high quality numerics of Cats2D. Derby describes this as his model of particle engulfment. Solving this problem requires features unique to Cats2D that I put there myself. I don't see how Derby can claim it is his model. I was the first person to model this problem, and I will be the last. The same can be said for any of these other problems, all solved using Cats2D.

The broader significance of plagiarism and other attribution failures

Derby has plagiarized more than just these two papers. He has made several conference presentations that fail to recognize my contributions to his work on the temperature gradient zone melting method. Derby owes me co-authorship on all papers published by him and his students that were based on Cats2D simulations for which I provided help setting up the problem setup and training the student.

Derby ceased altogether giving proper attribution to me or Cats2D in all his works published, submitted, or presented after June, 2016, the month he filed his false accusation with the journal. This was a sharp break from the practice of the previous fifteen years and it cannot be justified.

Derby and the U defy my legally enforceable cease and desist order

In March, 2017 I first learned that Derby had published the paper on the traveling heater method without crediting me for major contributions to it, and without crediting Cats2D. In April I sent legally enforceable cease and desist letters to Derby, his students, and several U officials ordering they stop using Cats2D and destroy all copies.

The University of Minnesota legal office responded by asserting ownership rights based on several factual errors regarding the code and its development, then refused to change its position even after I explained these errors to them. The failure at due diligence was absolute. Meanwhile Derby and his group continued to infringe on my copyright.

I sue Derby and the U for willful copyright infringement

Seventeen months later my attorneys filed a complaint on my behalf against Derby and the University of Minnesota in U.S. District Court for willful copyright infringement. The evidence presented in the complaint is overwhelming. The settlement acknowledges that Goodwin and I are the sole authors of Cats2D. This should have been recognized when I first sent the cease and desist letters nearly two years ago. The university invoked immunity under the 14th Amendment to avoid paying any financial damages or my legal fees. Invoking immunity this way is uncommon, unless you are the U.

Immediately after my suit was filed the U legal office offered to completely concede ownership of Cats2D, but refused to settle for any damages or legal fees because they were shielded by immunity. The image that keeps popping into my head is a gang of crooks who toss the bag of loot and run when the cops show up. So I get to keep my code, but I have to pay my legal fees and suffer 18 months of frustration to do it.

Putting things in perspective

Derby has sought in every way to diminish credit that I deserve for my foundational contributions to his research. He has omitted my name from every author list for the past three years on works to which I made major contributions and I expect he will continue to do so. He halted a 15 year long practice of citing Cats2D by name with attribution to its true authors, even though his group continued to publish results computed by it. He made provably false misrepresentations to the University of Minnesota legal office about the authorship of Cats2D because he did not want to stop using it. His fabrication that the code was co-authored by his students resulted in my having to pay nearly $20,000 in legal fees to establish ownership of something I have always owned.

In legal terms Derby committed a tort against me by wilfully infringing on my copyright based on false pretenses. But I think the ethical offense here is even greater. Cats2D is a remarkable achievement and its capabilities are unique. Derby has sought to portray me as a closely supervised, work-for-hire, research technician. In a conversation with Ralph Goodwin, Derby compared me to someone who runs a scanning electron microscope in a service role to other researchers. This comparison is preposterous. A better analogy is that I designed and built an electron microscope from scratch with many innovative features unavailable on other electron microscopes. Even that analogy fails to capture to the intellectual achievement represented by Cats2D.