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Tenure Statistics Contradict Iowa State’s Claim that “many good researchers have failed to satisfy the demands of earning tenure” at ISU

Iowa State University has attempted to defend its denial of tenure to widely-published pro-ID astronomer Guillmero Gonzalez by insisting earlier this week that tenure is hard to get at ISU. Indeed, according to a statement about the Gonzalez case posted on ISU’s home page, tenure

is a high standard of excellence and achievement — so high, that many good researchers have failed to satisfy the demands of earning tenure.

So just how “many” is “many”? Not very many, it turns out. We requested data from ISU on the number of tenure applications and rejections at the university for the past five years, and here is what we found out:


According to these figures, the tenure acceptance rate at ISU has been steadily climbing for the past five years, from a “low” (!) of 85% in 2003 to this year’s acceptance rate of 91%.

Put another way, the rejection rate for tenure applications at ISU has fallen from 15% in 2003 to only 9% in 2007:


Are we really supposed to believe that a 91% acceptance rate for tenure applications at ISU represents such a “high standard of excellence and achievement… that many good researchers have failed to satisfy” it?! Or that a scientist like Dr. Gonzalez—who has published 350% more papers than needed to satisfy his own department’s standard for research excellence—was somehow in the bottom 9% of tenure applicants this year?

Even if one looks at Dr. Gonzalez’s own department, the 10-year approval rate of tenure applications is nearly 70% if one accepts data reported in The Des Moines Register yesterday. That is less than the university as a whole, but still very good odds of acceptance. Again, are we to believe that Dr. Gonzalez—whose work has been recognized in Science, Nature, Scientific American, and many other scientific publications—is in the bottom third of his department? I guess that’s why his department uses in its courses the astronomy textbook he co-authored for Cambridge University Press last year.

John G. West

Senior Fellow, Managing Director, and Vice President of Discovery Institute
Dr. John G. West is Vice President of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and Managing Director of the Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Formerly the Chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography at Seattle Pacific University, West is an award-winning author and documentary filmmaker who has written or edited 12 books, including Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science, The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society, and Walt Disney and Live Action: The Disney Studio’s Live-Action Features of the 1950s and 60s. His documentary films include Fire-Maker, Revolutionary, The War on Humans, and (most recently) Human Zoos. West holds a PhD in Government from Claremont Graduate University, and he has been interviewed by media outlets such as CNN, Fox News, Reuters, Time magazine, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.