Let the rewriting of history begin. The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s blog recently carried a post claiming that Guillermo Gonzalez was denied tenure by Iowa State University (ISU) largely because “Mr. Gonzalez’s publication record has dropped off considerably since he was hired at Iowa State.” But this statement is a gross distortion of Dr. Gonzalez’s real publication record.
A simple decrease in publications is meaningless without reference to expected standards of publication for teaching faculty, departmental publication standards, or the publication rates of similarly situated faculty. A fair assessment would ask how Gonzalez compared to other astronomers in his department since the year he joined ISU (2001), especially compared to those astronomers that have already been granted tenure. And the answer to that question is clear:
According to the Smithsonian/NASA Astrophysics Data System, Gonzalez has published 34 publications since 2001 and his normalized publication score is 2nd among all astronomers in his department. (Click here for the methodology on his absolute publication count.) In fact, he beats out all tenured astronomers in his department in the normalized number of publications since 2001! We’ve already highlighted that Gonzalez has the highest normalized citation count among ISU astronomers over the same time period. Moreover, even if one counts only the refereed articles Gonzalez published after coming to ISU, he significantly exceeded his own department’s stated standard of the number of peer-reviewed publications needed for tenure. These significant comparisons show just how unfair (and irrelevant) the claim is that Gonzalez’s publication rate “dropped off” compared to his pre-ISU days. The “drop off” claim is additionally unfair for reasons previously outlined by John West:
the insinuation that Gonzalez has somehow become unproductive as a scholar since coming to ISU is utterly false. It is true that he has published fewer peer-reviewed articles each year while at ISU than he did as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Washington. But that is perfectly normal. A postdoctoral researcher who has no teaching obligations obviously can produce more journal articles per year than someone who must teach classes and engage in various forms of university service. The relevant fact is that Gonzalez has continued to produce multiple new peer-reviewed journal articles each year, even while co-authoring a major college astronomy textbook, and even while teaching his classes and fulfilling the normal requirements for university service at ISU. It is notable that Gonzalez’s department nominated him for an “early achievement” award in research at ISU in 2004. Significantly, that nomination came before the controversy erupted on campus over the publication of The Privileged Planet.
In short, Gonzalez beats all tenured ISU astronomers in both normalized publication count and normalized citation count since the year he joined ISU. Does this sound like Gonzalez’s department had any legitimate grounds for complaining about his publication record? Perhaps there are better explanations for why he was denied tenure:
- Two astronomy faculty, including the chair of the ISU Department of Physics and Astronomy, admitted that ID played a role in their choice to deny tenure to Dr. Gonzalez.
- Two faculty who voted on Dr. Gonzalez’s tenure have ties to a statement denouncing intelligent design as “creationist pseudoscience”.
- A tenured physicist in Dr. Gonzalez’s department who voted on Gonzalez’s tenure has now publicly admitted that he voted against Gonzalez solely because he disagreed with Gonzalez’s view that intelligent design is science.
- 120 ISU faculty signed a petition condemning intelligent design in 2005 and urging all other ISU faculty to do likewise.
Methodology for Determining Publication Count
1. Go to the Smithsonian/NASA Astrophysics Data System.
2. Put “Gonzalez, Guillermo” in the Authors field, and check the box selecting “Exact Name Matching.”
3. In the “Publication Date Between” field, select from 01/2001 through 05/2007. The results can be seen here.