Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Law of Diminishing Returns: Much Academic Research Is Either Ignored or Fake

Most of the criticism of higher education revolves around teaching: fees are too high, too little learning is going on, viewpoint diversity is absent. Perhaps because it is less visible to the public, less emphasis is placed on research. Here the problems are similarly significant and growing. For years I thought the problem was mainly over-investment: too many professors were writing too many largely unread papers for mostly obscure journals on trivial topics. Increasingly, however,there is a second problem: a good bit of research cannot be replicated. Being able to reproduce results of others to demonstrate that a consistent relationship exists is the hallmark of the scientific method. Additionally, papers that are supposedly peer reviewed by fellow scholars to check for scientific validity and relevance often are not. And the problem is even worse: occasionally completely bogus research is published from fictitious authors on bizarre research topics.

The most recent scandal involved three scholars who submitted 20 totally fake papers to academic journals, writing under assumed names. Seven of the papers were accepted (four making it into print), seven more were under review, and only six clearly rejected for publication. The most notorious paper was published in a journal, Gender, Place & Culture, that apparently focuses on a topic of existential importance: “feminist geography.” The authors claimed that “Dog parks are Petri dishes for canine ‘rape culture.’” It argued that the rape of female dogs by their male counterparts provides insight into human issues of rape. The paper was a figment of the imagination of the authors, not the non-existent “Helen Wilson” who allegedly wrote it. The 20 papers all focused on an area of research called “grievance studies.”

The publishing of ridiculous, nonsensical papers goes back decades. NYU physicist Alan Sokal authored a paper in Social Text in 1996 full of gibberish and entitled “Transgressing the Boundaries; Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.” He was showing how barren the ideologically laden, incomprehensible (to most highly literate human beings) postmodernist literature often is. In 2013, a journalist/scientist, John Bohannon, wrote a fake paper with deliberately laughably bad methodology (including no clinical trials) purporting to reveal a promising new cancer fighting drug. He submitted it to over 100 open-access journals, many of which offered to publish it--for a fee. According to the Economist, a scientist in Finland estimates over 400,000 articles in questionable journals are published annually--one every 79 seconds, day and night, 365 days a year. Even in reputable peer reviewed journals, examples of so-called scientific results that cannot be reproduced by others abound. The National Association of Scholars (of which I am a member) in a recent report argued this is a major problem.

Why are conventional standards of scholarship being abandoned? Several favors are at work. First, there are too many professors writing under the pressure of “publish or perish” for too many journals, most of which almost no one reads. The professors must publish to advance professionally, yet there are not enough truly reputable journals to assure that everyone gets published enough to meet minimal academic expectations. Second, the Law of Diminishing Returns is working: the first or fifth or maybe even the 20th paper on an interesting subject adds something to the stock of knowledge, but at some point, maybe the 100th paper, there is literally nothing left of significance worth saying.

Third, and perhaps more controversial, ideologically driven individuals are creating so-called academic disciplines in order to provide outlets for their views and to get tenure. The notion of a journal with a feminist geography orientation is an example. Does the Real World (outside of academia) recognize the need or validity of combining the study of places with issues relating to gender? In order to disguise the paucity of real content, many articles use incomprehensible jargon that sounds learned but which masks the paucity of scientific content and the ideological predilections of the author. College presidents more interested in job security and campus peace than academic truth and integrity have allowed creating pseudo disciplines and academic departments in a largely futile effort to bribe and appease leftest campus ideologues.

Is it no wonder Gallup poll data show a sharp declining public confidence in universities in just the last three years.


Detroit School Board Criticized for Effort to Strip Ben Carson's Name from High School

Members of the Project 21 black leadership network condemned an effort by the Detroit, Michigan school board to rename the Benjamin Carson High School of Science and Medicine, saying the move “devalues black achievement” and “ignores hope and history.”

“This is another misguided effort by liberals to erase history,” said Gregory Parker of Project 21. “The Detroit school board had no problem with the name of the school before Dr. Carson became active in politics.”

“Now that he does not conform to the ideal liberal plantation image of a black man and he plays a prominent role in the Trump Administration, he offends their hypersensitive, self-righteous and morally corrupt sensibilities,” said Parker.

According to The Detroit News, the school board of Detroit voted 6-1 on Nov. 13 to consider renaming “several buildings in the district.” The Benjamin Carson High School of Science and Medicine was among them.

Ben Carson is the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under the administration of President Donald Trump. He is also a former presidential candidate, a best selling author, and a pediatric neurosurgeon who famously separated twin babies who were born conjoined at the head.

Former President George W. Bush awarded Carson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in 2008 for his “skills as a surgeon, high moral standards, and dedication to helping others.”

According to the school’s website, Carson, who grew up in inner-city Detroit, was chosen as “a role model for students with aspirations and interests in science and medical fields” and as a reminder to students that “their career dreams are achievable.”

The school also highlights Carson’s “professional and personal formula for success,” which it says is “embedded” in its core beliefs and values.

Project 21 member Diante Johnson emphasized Carson’s message of encouragement to young people.

“Over the years, Dr. Carson has sent a message to youth that – regardless of skin color – the sky is the limit and everyone is free to aspire to be whatever they want to be,” Johnson said.

Marie Fischer-Wyrick of Project 21 said having Carson’s name on the school is “an inspiration to all of its students,” and added that removing it is “a sad example of the crabs-in-a-barrel mentality that still permeates much of the black community.”

According to outgoing Detroit school board member LaMar Lemmons, however, Carson has “disgraced himself” through his involvement with Trump. Lemmons told The Washington Post that he “regularly” receives letters from the Detroit community asking the board to rename the school, and that having Carson’s name on the school is “synonymous with having Trump’s name on our school in blackface.”

Lemmons added that Carson is “doing Trump’s bidding, and he has adversely affected the African American community in Detroit as well as the nation with his housing policies. And he’s allied himself with a president that says he is a white nationalist and sends dog whistles that even the deaf can hear.”

Parker argued that political associations are not a good reason to remove Carson’s name.

“Dr. Carson’s accomplishments and successes as a surgeon and advocate for getting a good education do not change because he works for this president,” Parker said.

Johnson echoed that view, pointing out that “accomplishments are permanent.”

“To want to remove an honor rooted in Dr. Carson’s accomplishments because of political differences or associations puts us at a sad time in history,” Johnson said.


Let’s Approve New Title IX Regulation, End Campus ‘Kangaroo Courts’

The Department of Education released its long-awaited Title IX regulation on November 16. The proposed regulation can be seen HERE. The draft regulation has a 60-day public comment period.


The proposed regulation isn’t perfect, of course. Below are the strengths and needed changes, based on SAVE’s initial analysis. SAVE discourages persons from sending these comments verbatim to the Department of Education. Instead, persons should submit comments based on their own experiences and perspectives.


1. Notice Requirements

– must publish and provide notice of their grievance procedures including how to report and how to respond to complaint.

– must provide notice of allegations to both parties including potential sanctions, standard of evidence, right to appeal, range of supportive measures, and date/time/location of hearings

– must inform parties they have right to request and inspect evidence

– must provide written decision detailing violation, procedural steps taken, findings of fact, sanctions imposed, and right to appeal. Must be provided to both parties simultaneously

2. Definitions

– provides a more narrow definition of sexual harassment:

Supreme Court’s Davis v. Monroe definition
Quid pro quo harassment
Any offense that meets the FBI definition of rape, fondling, incest, or statutory rape (34 CFR 668.46(a))
– schools are only obligated if they have actual knowledge. A school only has actual knowledge if allegations are made to a Title IX coordinator or any school official who has power to institute corrective measures

3. Equal Rights

– supportive measures can now be offered to both parties

– a school’s treatment of either party in response to a complaint can constitute sex discrimination

4. Grievance Procedures

– equitable resolution for respondent must include due process before any disciplinary sanctions are imposed

– requires objective evaluation of all relevant evidence including both inculpatory and exculpatory evidence

– credibility determinations cannot be based on person’s status as complainant, respondent, or witness

– must be presumption of innocence until finding of guilt

– burden of proof is on school and not parties

– right to cross-examine through an advisor

– if party does not have advisor present, school must provide one who is aligned with the party

– informal resolutions are allowed at any time prior to determination

– school must maintain and provide record of investigation for 3 years

5. Conflict of Interest

– any investigator, coordinator, or decision-maker cannot have a conflict of interest against complainant or respondent

– training materials cannot rely on sex stereotypes and must promote impartial investigations

– decision-maker cannot be same person as the Title IX coordinators or investigators

6. Standard of Evidence

– same standard of evidence must be used for both students and faculty/employees

– preponderance of evidence can only be used if the school uses that standard for conduct code violations that do not involve sexual harassment but carry same sanction

Negatives — Changes that Need to be Made

1. Initiation of Grievance Procedure

– when school has actual knowledge of multiple reports against same respondent, the Title IX coordinator must file a complaint

2. Standard of Evidence

– may choose between preponderance of evidence or clear and convincing standard

3. Appeals

– school is not required to provide right to appeal

– if right to appeal is provided, school must allow both parties to appeal

4. Knowingly false accusations and false statements

– provision that addresses false accusations and false statements


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