Re: [asa] gonzalez' citation record

From: Freeman, Louise Margaret <>
Date: Fri May 25 2007 - 11:15:04 EDT

Thanks for the analysis, Ted.

I have read on some internet sites (though not fact-checked for myself) that Gonzalez has not
received any external grant funding (apart from a small Templeton grant used to write
Priviledged Planet) or graduated any PhD students during is time in Iowa. I would be interested
in seeing Gonzalez's record in those areas compared to the other examples you mention.

My admitedly amateurish take: Gonzalez was not in the "walk on water" category: the peple who
publish widely and bring in lots of grant money, relative to their peers. I'm cynical enough to
believe that such people could probably publically advocate the "Moon is made of green cheese"
hyothesis without jeopardizing their tenure chances.

Gonzalez is also not in the "bottom of the barrel" category of people who do no respectable
scholarship and have no chance for tenure. I don't know that I've ever seen an example of this
type who made it to the tenure track position and lasted until tenure review, though I'm sure
there are some out there.

Gonzalez was, like most of us, in that middle category who had points for and against him. It
looks like, as Ted demonstrated, his publications should have been a big plus. If he indeed
never successfully secured research funding or trained a graduate student, that would be a big
minus. One depressing aspect of this affair for me is that I've heard no one, pro or con,
comment at all about what kind of teacher he is... apparently both sides acknowledge that's
not a significant factor! (Grrr... but I'll save my rant about lack of appreciation about that for
later. Suffice it to say I'm glad I'm not in a major research institute!)

In plus/minus situations, political factors usually mange to tip the scales, and in this case
Gonzalez probably had multiple factors working against him.

1. Anti-Christian or anti-theist bigotry. I'm not convinced this was a major factor; unfortunatel,
we'll likely never know how much of a role this played, as people who feel this way are very
unlikely to say so publically.
2. Anti-ID sentiment from people who see may have no personal beef against religion, but see
the ID movement, as personified by the DI, as a major political threat against quality science
education. Such people, perhaps understandably, do not want ID publically associaed with their
science department or their university.
3. Anti-popular science sentiment. This type of "snobbery" is of course not limited to
Christians; it likely cost Carl Sagan admittance to the National Academy.
 Scientists who actively engage the public via popular books, films etc. reduce their status in the
eyes of their peers. Personally, I think this is just another reflection of anti-teachng bias, only
with the general public as the "students."

The question is, was the Avalos petition a reflection of factor #1, #2 or both?

I doubt many would advocate that sentiment #1 should ever be a factor in tenure decisions.
Personally, I think the public would be better served if sentiment #3 was not so prominant (and
thankfully, smaller colleges are much more likely to welcome popular-science advocates.)

 Are universities justified in rejecting tenure applications because of sentiment #2? There's
where the struggle is.

I thought this perspective, from a fellow astronomer whose own tenure bid is in jeopardy due to
lack of funding, was interesing.

Louise M. Freeman, PhD
Psychology Dept
Mary Baldwin College
Staunton, VA 24401
FAX 540-887-7121
> For comparison, his colleague Dr.
> Steven Kawaler, an excellent astronomer and full professor at ISU, has
> been cited about half as much (681 time!
> s, as of this week); his h-index is 16, and none of his papers has
> been cited as often as any of Dr. Gonzalez’ top four papers. Harvard
> astronomer Alyssa Goodman, director of The Initiative in Innovative
> Computing, has an h-index identical to that of Dr. Gonzalez: as
> interesting and important as her work is, the data reveal that Dr.
> Gonzalez’ work is no less interesting, at least in terms of citations
> in professional journals.

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Received on Fri May 25 11:15:53 2007

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