Tag Archives: Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research

Happy anniversary Dr Dorin Schumacher!

Dorin Schumacher with motocycle.
Photograph of Dorin Schumacher from Cambridge Who’s Who. She was Professional of the Year for Non-Profits Management in 2011.

One of the mildly entertaining things about having a blog is seeing what type of web searches lead people to my site.  For me, key search terms usually include “killing camel crickets”.  But “Dr Dorin Schumacher” is up there, too.  The former is a pestiferous creature that dwells in dark places and leaves frass stains everywhere. The latter has a doctorate in French literature, has a fondness for wearing black, and heads a Georgia-based non-profit (The Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research) that plagiarizes my site heavily.  When I complained about the plagiarism, she used CPBR’s money (which comes from the DOE, USDA, and EPA … i.e., you) to hire a fancy lawyer to threaten me with copyright infringement.  She has demanded that I take down my site or face hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.

That was a year ago, and it seems like a fine day to make an anniversary post in her honor, if for no other reason than to solidify my awesome “Dr Dorin Schumacher” Google ranking.

When news of this frass behavior hit the internet last year, there was a lot of interest (albeit brief), even from people who don’t normally care about the design of scientific posters (the content of mine that CPBR had stolen and claimed was theirs).  For example, the story crashed the servers at The Chronicle of Higher Education (that had never happened before, I was told).  A lot of people contacted me with emails of sympathy, but nothing really affected Dr Schumacher’s little hive in St Simon’s Island (a resort town).

So here’s what I did: I spent a fun-filled week contacting Presidents, Grants Administration Chairs, and designated DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) Agents at every single one of CPBR’s member institutions.  I informed them that CPBR’s document infringed on my copyrighted material, attached proof (PDFs, etc.), and asked them to stop emailing the document to their researchers.  Naturally, forwarding material that is known to violate copyright is something universities traditionally avoid.  I also informed the private corporations that they were trafficking a document that violated my copyright. Biotechnology corporations generally like copyright law, too.

One year later: not a single member has complied with my wishes — they are all still members of the CPBR racket (it diverts millions of dollars of taxpayer money that would normally go to USDA, EPA, and DOE grants).  The only encouraging response I got was from a person who said, “we will continue to follow this” (yeah, thanks a lot).  All of them apparently decided that ignoring my request (after all, just some snarky botanist in Swarthmore) would preserve the juicy financial benefits of continued CPBR membership.

And CPBR continues to email the document containing my text to all its member institutions and still has “copyright CPBR” plastered on the pages in question.  In fact, everything seems to be peachy at CPBR in the resort town of St Simon’s Island, Georgia.  They just finished an annual gathering in DC, and even had important government officials (Dr Johnathan Male, Department of Energy; Sanford Bishop, US House of Representatives) and scientists give keynote talks (see program details).  And its funding seems rather secure (according to the DOE’s Dr Male in this PDF).  The Department of Energy has given them $23 million dollars.  Dr Schumacher pays herself $1/4 million per year.

So I thought it would be fun to list the member institutions below as a way to call attention to their inaction.  If you’re an alum who might care to contact them, you’d get 17 karma points. If you want to contact the DOE office that gives CPBR its money, you can email them.

cpbr member institutions

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Psst — plant biotechnology researchers …

Anyone have the latest program announcement from The Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research?  The title is “Bioenergy and Biomass Conversion From Plant-Based Research to Prototype Bio-Materials.” I’m hugely curious to know whether they have deleted the appendix on poster design tips.  In case you didn’t know, they are accusing me of stealing their tips … in fact, if I don’t take my page down (Designing conference posters), they plan to bring me to court to sue for damages. If they deleted or completely reworded their appendix, the change would be an admission of copyright infringement guilt.

Hence my curiosity.

So please let me know if you have a copy.  Would also love to chat with anyone who submitted a pre-proposal back in December 2013.  Especially interesting in chatting with those who might have been selected to present a poster in Washington, D.C. in March 2014.  I can give you poster advice if you contact me! Don’t worry, I will not release your name.

If you are curious, below are some pages from their previous Appendix 5, “Symposium Poster Rules and Guidelines.”  If you see highlighting, that’s where the text is taken from my site, which I published years before they crafted their Appendix 5. Yes, that’s right: they copy/pasted, then made minor edits.  And then just claimed it was theirs.

cpbr-plagiarism

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False statement in Arnold & Porter letter?

Arnold & Porter LLP is threatening me with a big lawsuit, and I am wondering if anyone could help me parse a statement their lead lawyer made in a letter on behalf of The Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research, Inc.:

CPBR owns a copyright in a document titled “2014 Competition, Bioenergy and Biomass Conversion, From Plant-Based Research to Prototype Bio-Materials, Request for Preproposals, Submission Deadline: December 14, 2012.”

(The bolding is mine.) If CPBR “owns a copyright,” then it seems like the title or author would have to be registered in some database at the U.S. Copyright Office. I tried searching for the title, and also for the author, but couldn’t find any matches.

It would be inconceivable (to me, at least) that CPBR’s lawyers didn’t check the copyright status of the document. And also inconceivable that they wouldn’t do a quick Google search to see whose poster hints had primacy on the internet.

Any thoughts, folks?

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Desperately seeking CPBR “Call for preproposals” PDFs

If anyone happens to have archived versions of documents sent out by The Consortium for Plant Biotechnology, Inc., I’d be grateful to receive copies. They copied/pasted some text of mine into their guidelines on poster design, and I’d like to know what it looked like before and after that copying event. They are hard to find on the internet because of the “For internal use only. Do not post on the internet” warning that is printed in red on the first page. The document is sent to thousands of researchers and research administrators each year, so I know people have them. Unfortunately, I have emailed over 500 people asking them, and only one person has replied with a PDF so far. I suspect that the researchers and administrators I’d emailed were rightfully concerned about potential retribution by CPBR or Dorin Schumacher, but given the current news climate I don’t think people have to worry about that anymore (a bigger concern is whether CPBR will be around next year).

File name might be something like, “CPBR 2014 RFP.pdf”.

I’m also curious whether the “For internal use only. Do not post on the internet” text appeared after they plagiarized my content.

Oh, would also be equally interested in any poster-related handouts / Powerpoint slides from any of CPBR’s annual meetings (e.g., like the one from 2005, pictured below).

Thanks in advance!!!

CPBR symposium 2005

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Bad PR day for The Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research, Inc.

Logo of the Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research, Inc.  From its website.
Logo of the Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research, Inc. From its website.

CPBR, based in St Simons Island, Georgia, is apparently in the process of registering a copyright on some of my text in “Designing conference posters,” and is in the process of preparing for litigation against me, claiming I infringed on their copyright. I had previously accused them of infringing upon my copyright. I know, sounds like two kids in the back seat, bickering. And, for the record, Mom, they started it.

I thought I’d share a few newsy links with anyone who might be curious in the details. Listed chronologically.

  1. Plagiarism spat over scientific poster prep advice escalates to legal threats” (by Adam Marcus @ Retraction Watch blog)
  2. Adding Insult to Plagiary?” (by Tom Bartlett @ The Chronicle of Higher Education)
  3. Scientist writes funny, helpful guide for making science posters. A big company steals it. Then the company sues him” (tomb123 @ reddit)
  4. Bring Me The Head Of That Threatening Lawyer!” (by Ken at Popehat blog)
  5. Swarthmore Biologist Accused of Plagiarizing…his Own Work” (by Simon van Zuylen-Wood @ The Philly Post)

From tax records (gross receipts in 2010 = $3,314,709), it appears that the CPBR show is run by founder and CEO extraordinaire, Dorin Schumacher. She is, I guess, also in charge of public relations, so I’m sure she’ll be on this, soon. If you’d like to know more about her, she has posted a listing in the Cambridge Who’s Who [thanks Dina Smith for link], where you can read about her amazing accomplishments and also see a photograph of her grandmother in a slinky dress. (I remember getting letters from Cambridge Who’s Who, but I’d always assumed it was a scam. Typically, you have to pay to get yourself listed in these things, and I’m not so easily suckered. Also, once you pay, you have to say flattering things about yourself in the third person, which is really against Colin Purrington’s personality type.)

If you’re interested in even more details of my little drama, here you go:

PDF showing how CPBR plagiarized me (this is the same method of highlighting I’d use when my students at Swarthmore College plagiarized; this is the worst I’ve ever seen)

If you’re curious about anything else, or might have information that would be useful for my defense, please email ASAP. Operators are standing by.

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