The AWRI, Obsfucation and Misdirection

by Dudley Brown

If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. – Will Rogers

You can’t polish a turd. But, you can roll it in glitter. – common

Dr. Mark Krstic, Managing Director of the AWRI, responded to my last post on The Wine Rules yesterday. I wish to thank him for confirming much of that post. Unfortunately for the AWRI and the Australian wine community, he chose to do so in a way that neither resolves the matter at hand or improves the AWRI’s reputation. In his letter to SWA members he said:

To address the points Krstic addresses briefly:

While Krstic “comprehensively denies” any allegation of plagiarism and claims to have legal advice that supports this, I can assure you that if I had made unsubstantiated allegations of plagiarism about any major academic / research institute that were not true, their lawyers would have been in touch with me already. They would have demanded that the post be taken down. My belief is that they have not contacted me for one good reason – truth is still a defense in court.

Krstic then denies that SWA was a “rebadge” of SAW despite using the exact same words in its title as SAW but in a different order. Seriously. It is much worse than just a re-badge of the title. The SWA system re-used the SAW system in wholesale proportions. Yes, they re-worded the content. Schoolchildren know that this doesn’t get you off the hook for not being original. And, in a particularly novel innovation, they switched the scoring system from 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 to 4, 3, 2, 1, 0. You can’t make this stuff up.

He goes on to draw a narrow case that “program content” was drawn from just two programs, Entwine and SAW (not the rich history of…individuals and organisations” he cites later). This is where he goes badly wrong. SAW was a system for assessing sustainability in viticulture. Within that system, there was content. It is analogous to a sport. The sport is a system – rules, league structure, schedules etc. The teams, players and games are the content. This distinction about SAW has been repeatedly explained to Dr Krstic in writing and in person. His deliberate evasion on this point by using the word “content” appears to be evidence of his consciousness of guilt by failing to note the systemic nature of Irina’s contribution.

Dr. Santiago-Brown solely wrote the SAW system. She co-authored four of the six chapters of content (as previously acknowledged in my post) with community members as part of her method of developing a program with broad uptake. Two chapters she wrote herself. All contributions were properly acknowledged at the time of first publication.

SWA failed to acknowledge Irina, or the co-authors of the “program content” that Dr Krstic admits using at the time of publishing. However, they have neither admitted their wrongdoing in not having done so or apologised for not doing so because they know to do so potentially creates additional liability and embarrassment for them. The illogic and inconsistency of maintaining this position, among others, is bewildering. And, not cool.

Krstic goes on to claim that SAW has always been owned by MVGWTA. This is false. SAW was an open source document authored my wife and published as part of her PhD while she was employed at MVGWTA. In open source, there is no “owner” just authors and authorship. To use open source materials, all that is required is acknowledgement of authors and sources. MVGWTA publicly acknowledged that Dr. Santiago-Brown was the author numerous times in 2014 and 2015. The AWRI failed to do so at the time it published SWA. This is incontestable.

The content of SAW was always intended to be a living document that evolved as the world evolved – be it technology, climate, social mores, business practices, etc. That was the specific point of the famous redacted paragraph in 2014 – that SAW was much more adaptable and continuously improvable in the real world than Entwine. Its’ content was to be changed over time, updated and adapted. That was one point of novelty of the system Irina wrote and SWA subsequently adapted. It was not just about the content. So, why not recognise the novelty of her system and just apologise?

I’m no lawyer, but if MVGWTA made representations that it “owned” SAW to the AWRI, that is a matter for those two to work out amongst themselves. And, that AWRI would ever knowingly receive work previously published in a PhD as being “owned” by another party brings into question the due diligence done by AWRI. The University of Adelaide might have an opinion about that claim as well. Success has so many fathers. But SAW had only one mother.

Ad taken in WBM donated by Irina and me “gifting” SAW to the Australian community. Note current AWRI Board Member Toby Bekkers and newly elected Corrina Wright in photo.

Krstic’s “rich history” of sustainability comments go straight to the point of my last post – that employees of AWRI have engaged in a pattern of behaviour to intimidate, defame, and diminish my wife’s work and academic reputation since 2011. That he seems to wish to diminish her here and add to the litany of prior actions (some of which he is aware of) is appalling behaviour. The purpose of the AWRI suddenly producing a voluminous timeline (again without any attribution of sources for same) of moments and people that possibly had something to do with sustainability (and some not!) over the last 30 years appears to not be an effort to recognise all the contributors but to diminish the work of one. To make out like she’s just a chorus girl in the back row of one scene of the show. It just seems petty and cruel.

Further, Krstic either does not seem to understand sustainability or obsfucates its meaning to somehow equate it with environmental or natural resource schemes. When Irina wrote her PhD, she investigated all of the principle sustainability systems in use in the “New World” of viticulture. She did not include Entwine in that research because it was not a sustainability system. Nor was Yarra Valley’s, nor any of the others cited. They are not equivalent to and are not sources of SAW or her work.

Setting aside the cast of multitudes who may or may not have contributed to sustainability in Australian viticulture, the AWRI’s citation of Generational Farming is, at best, muddled. The Generational Farming system was an early effort by MVGWTA (developed mostly while I was Chair of MVGWTA) that we incorrectly called a sustainability system. Just as Entwine later incorrectly called their system a sustainability system, it was an environmental system. But, GF used a different method of data collection than Entwine.

The MVGWTA Board recognised that GF was a good start but lacked significant components and the rigor required by a sustainability system. That is why we advertised the position for someone to build a sustainability system. And why Irina was hired. Irina immediately ditched that system (known as Version 1.1) because it was much more flawed than even we realised. The GF name was retained until MVGWTA had built an online system that anyone in Australia could access at which point its name was changed to reflect that capability. In fact, the reason PIRSA funded the development of the online system was because anyone could use it, not just MVGWTA’s members.

Notably, Krstic does nothing to address a number of other matters raised in my post that question the integrity of SWA aside from Irina’s authorship of SAW, AWRI’s mis-use of her work and the lack of appropriate recognition provided. One can only speculate why he has not.

Finally, in a statement made to Meininger’s Wine Business International, Louisa Rose was quoted as saying “We want to acknowledgeable of the people in the industry who have contributed to the sustainability journey that the industry is still on, and Irina is certainly one of those people, but not the only person.” Who ever said Irina is the only person who has contributed to the sustainability journey in the industry? What rubbish. And, from someone of her stature in the industry. I’ll be ashamed for her. As stated in my prior post, the culture and governance issues appear to be profound and not limited to one or two people.

Dr. Krstic’s letter does nothing to solve the demands we presented to him – recognition in form and content agreeable to by Irina and an apology for not having done so. The timeline offered does nothing to appropriately recognise Irina’s novel contributions to sustainability in viticulture in Australia. In fact, AWRI doesn’t even appear to understand which parts of Irina’s work they have used without acknowledgement. What a hot, tawdry mess.

More on this later. Much more.