Re: [asa] Muggings and the tenure process

From: PvM <>
Date: Mon May 21 2007 - 23:54:07 EDT

On 5/21/07, <> wrote:
> Ted replies:
> I understand from a physicist at a major research university, that
> Guillermo has an h-index of 23. This means that he has written at least 23
> papers that have each been cited at least 23 times. By the same
> calculation, a recent Nobel laureate in physics whose name I gave my friend
> for comparison, has an index of 18. The highest I have ever heard of is 41.
> Gonzalez is a world class scientist, even at his career stage.
> This one really does exude an unpleasant odor.
> Allan replies:
> I will start by reiterating that I am suspicious of the odor as well,
> especially because of the previous smear campaign. But I must continue to
> point out that the cause is not helped when simple numbers (whether h-index
> or number of publications) are advanced as though they alone prove somebody
> is a "world-class scientist".

In fact, if one does a more in-depth analysis then one notices how the
h factor drops signficantly for papers written after Gonzalez joined
ISU. Such a drop must not have gone unnoticed. I believe that 2004 was
an almost empty year as well for Gonzalez.

When the DI came out with its 'exceeded with 350%', it was clear to me
that such an abuse of statistics would eventually point to weaknesses
in what the press release did not state. For instance the PR was
silent on external funding, was silent on graduate students and
instead focused on statistics which seemed misleading at best.

In Today's Chronicle for Higher Education a similar conclusion is
reached (

<quote>At first glance, it seems like a clear-cut case of
discrimination. As an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at
Iowa State University, Guillermo Gonzalez has a better publication
record than any other member of the astronomy faculty. He also happens
to publicly support the concept of intelligent design. Last month he
was denied tenure.

"I'm concerned that my views on intelligent design have been a
factor," he said last week of the decision.

But a closer look at Mr. Gonzalez's case raises some questions about
his recent scholarship and whether he has lived up to his early

Other comments

<quote>Under normal circumstances, Mr. Gonzalez's publication record
would be stellar and would warrant his earning tenure at most
universities, according to Mr. Hirsch. But Mr. Gonzalez completed the
best scholarship, as judged by his peers, while doing postdoctoral
work at the University of Texas at Austin and at the University of
Washington, where he received his Ph.D. His record has trailed off
since then.</quote>


<quote> That pattern may have hurt his case. "Tenure review only
deals with his work since he came to Iowa State," said John McCarroll,
a spokesman for the university.

    When considering a tenure case, faculty committees try to
anticipate what kind of work a professor will accomplish in the
future. "The only reason the previous record is relevant is the extent
to which it can predict future performance," said Mr. Hirsch.
"Generally, it's a good indication, but in some cases it's not."

and finally

<quote>The department's promotion and tenure guidelines do not
explicitly list external financial support as a requirement for
tenure, he said. But Iowa's Mr. McCarroll said that the tenure-review
process does consider how many research grants scientists have

Remember that there are the University Guidelines, the college
guidelines and the department guidelines, not just the 15 publications
and you have tenure argument presented so ignorantly by the DI.
I wonder if the DI realizes how much damage they may be adding to
Gonzalez's case with their claims and 'arguments' such as accusing his
fellow astronomers of bias because one had signed the Steve project
and another was married to someone named steve who had signed such

> A tenure review committee that put much stock in this h-index, or in raw
> numbers of publications, would be derelict in its duty. How many of these
> 23 papers were written at ISU with Gonzalez leading the research? For all

There is a noticable drop in h index for papers written after Gonzalez
joined ISU. In fact, there are a few higher ranked papers which seem
to be based mostly on research work from before ISU.

> we know, most of them could have been early career work led by highly cited
> Ph.D. and/or postdoc advisors. And how many of the 23 citations were
> self-citations? Actually, this h-index looks like a lousy measure to use
> for tenure, because it gives more weight to older work that has had more
> time to get cited, when the tenure process is typically evaluating the
> performance of the person in the most recent 5 years or so. The process was
> supposed to evaluate whether Gonzalez has become a research leader in his
> time at ISU, and that is done primarily not by looking at these simplistic
> numbers but by evaluating the importance of recent publications and the
> degree to which others in his field consider him to be a leader, usually
> helped by a small number of outside experts in the field. If he has a lot
> of *recent* papers getting highly cited *by others* in first-rate journals,
> then he has a case. The numbers we have seen so far don't tell us that one
> way or the other.
> And to return to a point I made previously, I have not yet seen anything
> about whether Gonzalez brought in any outside research funding. The sad
> truth of modern U.S. academia (in science and engineering, and maybe
> especially in state schools with tightening budgets) is that in most
> research universities, if you don't bring in any money, you are unlikely to
> get tenure no matter how good your publication record is. Many good
> scholars who are not good at hustling for grant money lose out in this
> manner, independent of their religious viewpoint.

<quote>Mr. [sic] Gonzalez said he does not have any grants through
NASA or the National Science Foundation, the two agencies that would
normally support his research, on planets beyond our solar system and
their parent stars.</quote>

as to graduate students

<quote>He arrived at Iowa State in 2001, but none of his graduate
students there have thus far completed their doctoral work, although a
student from the University of Washington, with whom he had previously
worked, did finish.</quote>

Perhaps there is a case to be made after all why Gonzalez was not
granted tenure, one which is not based on a presumption of bias? Note
that for instance none of Gonzalez's colleagues in the Astronomy
Department signed the Avalos statement.

An earlier supervisor of Gonzalez had the following to add

<quote>David L. Lambert, director of the McDonald Observatory at
Texas, supervised Mr. Gonzalez during his postdoctoral fellowship
there in the early to mid-1990s. "He was quite productive, one of the
better postdocs I've had, and I've had 20 or 30 over the years," said
Mr. Lambert.

But he is not aware of any important new work by Mr. Gonzalez since he
arrived at Iowa State, such as branching off into different directions
of research. "I don't know what else he has done," Mr. Lambert said,
recalling that a few years ago, he reviewed a paper that Mr. Gonzalez
had submitted to Reviews of Modern Physics, a leading journal in the

Mr. Lambert recommended that the journal not accept the paper. "I did
not think it was up to the Reviews of Modern Physics," he said.

It seems that Gonzalez showed incredible potential as a graduate
student and post-doc.

The Des Moines Register also has an article

<quote>In the past 10 years, a third of the 12 tenure applicants in
the physics and astronomy department have been denied. Asked if
Gonzalez's Intelligent Design views were considered, department head
Eli Rosenberg replied, "Only to the extent that they impact his
scientific credentials."</quote>

Mike Dunford expands on the issue at

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Received on Mon May 21 23:54:43 2007

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