Neurotopia

Intelligent Design is a career-killer. There’s just no two ways about it. And not because of how peers treat the ID supporter; they throw their own productivity under the bus, to use Casey Luskin’s overworked cliche. We saw the same thing with Behe and Dembski. Behe has published ONE peer-reviewed paper in the last decade-ish. And Dembski… well, does anybody even know where he works these days?


All hyperbole aside, let’s look at Gonzalez’s publication track record while we keep in mind that tenure committees consider work that comes in after one joins the university to be of prime importance. I made a graph of the DI’s list of his peer-reviewed publications. Note that I did remove a few articles: one was a review paper published in 2006, as tenure committees generally don’t consider review papers to carry much weight, and also 3 papers in 2003 that were clearly reanalyses of old data collected during his postdoctoral years or time at University of Washington (we can tell because it explicitly says “reanalysis” or something similar in the title, and the papers are all published with Gonzalez’s old colleagues from those days, plus he isn’t even lead author, so the committee likely won’t consider them to count much at all towards his work at ISU).

gg1

Edit: Lynch made a better graph so I swapped it out.

The purple bars are first-author publications, and the blue bars are minor author publications. The height of the two together in any specific year is the total for that year. Looking at the graph and the DI’s list of publications, it’s pretty obvious that Gonzalez had a very successful postdoc with a good research group, and that carried over to his first faculty appointment at University of Washington, where he continued to collaborate with his old colleagues from his Ph.D. and postdoc. However, he peaked in 1999, and the decline began even while he was still at the University of Washington. Even more pronounced than the drop in publications is the complete bottom-out in first authorships that is almost sustained throughout his entire probationary period leading up to tenure.

So ISU Physics is stuck with a guy who publishes hardly any papers as primary author, whose publication list contracts once he strikes out on his own, and, perhaps most importantly, who doesn’t publish with new colleagues. New tenure-track investigators are expected to integrate into their departments, and to survive in a funding climate as shitty as our current one, investigators HAVE to work together. They absolutely MUST take an active role in pursuing one another’s research interests in order to stretch meager funds as far as possible.

Gonzales simply has not done that. And the DI can’t complain that Privileged Planet was responsible for his not being a team player; Gonzalez’s productivity plummet took place before PP was released. He was already treading water at that point. If anything, his output got slightly better after PP, because he at least put out some first author papers. If an investigator can’t collaborate successfully at his or her new institution, he or she needs to network with researchers at other institutions and get papers out, mentor students, and get grants out. Gonzalez already had that network in place, and yet failed to adequately capitalize on it.

As I said before, ID is a career-killer. Not because people shun it scientifically, but because ID is a scientific dead-end. We need look no further than the careers of “prominent ID scholars” to demonstrate that fact. They may crank out excellent science even years after getting tenure, but once they start dabbling in ID pseudoscience productivity goes out the window. Gonzalez is just the latest travesty to add to that list; after being awarded his Templeton Grant for Privileged Planet in 2000**, his research output sunk and never recovered. Gonzalez did this to himself, and I doubt the outcome would have been different at any institution.

**Edit in: I was mistaken. Templeton didn’t award him the grant to write Privileged Planet, they gave it to him to gather data. From a letter to The Chronicle:

The grant to Gonzalez was to support scientific research on the dynamical and compositional properties of the sun with respect to other local stars. In Mr. Monastersky’s article, Professor Gonzalez made it sound as if in some way the John Templeton Foundation had supported his study of intelligent design. This is not true. The foundation does not support research programs that deny large areas of well-documented scientific knowledge.

Emphasis mine. So even the Templeton Foundation doesn’t think ID is science. That speaks volumes.

Comments

  1. #1 Ric
    December 6, 2007

    Nice post. Damn, his publications dropped back to pre-PhD levels almost.

  2. #2 J-Dog
    December 6, 2007

    Nice work – Thanks.
    You would think that the DI has seen this information, and understand that honestly, there is no way that GG was ever going to get tenure. Of course the DI is not exactly known for their honesty….

  3. #3 Blake Stacey
    December 6, 2007

    And not because of how peers treat the ID supporter; they throw their own productivity under the bus, to use Casey Luskin’s overworked cliche.

    If you cross-breed Luskin’s cliché with Behe’s, you find that ID advocates throw their productivity under the molecular trucks and buses inside the nano-factory which is a living cell.

  4. #4 Art
    December 6, 2007

    It would be interesting to do a similar plot for Behe, say from 1985 through 2005. In this way, we could see what the future holds in store for Gonzales, once he gets tenure and goes full bore into the ID business.

  5. #5 Blake Stacey
    December 6, 2007

    And the DI can’t complain that Privileged Planet was responsible for his not being a team player; Gonzalez’s productivity plummet took place before PP was released.

    Well, I imagine he had to spend some time writing the thing.

  6. #6 dannyness
    December 6, 2007

    Besides his inability or unwillingness to work with his colleagues I think the most damning thing is the fact that he failed to mentor ANY students. I’d like to hear what some of his past and present students think. You certainly haven’t seen them come to his defense. It looks like he didn’t do ANY work FOR or WITH ISU so why should he get tenure.

  7. #7 Evil Monkey
    December 6, 2007

    Actually he did mentor one student. Who didn’t make it.

  8. #8 John Lynch
    December 6, 2007

    Did someone say Behe?

  9. #9 Form&Function
    December 6, 2007

    You would think that the DI has seen this information, and understand that honestly, there is no way that GG was ever going to get tenure.

    Of course, that would require that they actually be able to rationally interpret data. I haven’t seen a great deal of evidence supporting that hypothesis.

  10. #10 Mike from Ottawa
    December 6, 2007

    You would think that the DI has seen this information, and understand that honestly,

    Well _there’s_ your problem. The Disinformation Institute is as honest as the roulette table at Rick’s.

  11. #11 olegt
    December 6, 2007

    While I agree with the overall conclusions, I have a nit to pick. The number of papers on which one is the first author does not strike me as a meaningful variable—for a faculty member. Typically the first author is a grad student or postdoc who carried out most of the dirty work. The PI who came up with the idea is often the last on the list of authors.

  12. #12 Evil Monkey
    December 6, 2007

    I would tend to agree except that the “last author” rule isn’t a hard and fast rule, and by his list of publications, when he’s not collaborating with his old crew there’s a sizeable probability that he’s the lone author. After all, he hasn’t successfully mentored anybody.

  13. #13 timcol
    December 7, 2007

    Does anybody have access to the data to create to a similar chart for Dembski?

  14. #14 W. Kevin Vicklund
    December 7, 2007

    Actually he did mentor one student. Who didn’t make it.

    Not quite true. He mentored Chris Laws, who earned his PhD in 2004.

    At the University of Washington.

  15. #15 William Wilcox
    December 10, 2007

    I would be interested in a similar graph for Gonzalez’ colleagues at ISU. Right now there is nothing to compare so it is difficult to say that Gonzalez is underperforming. There is no indication of the nature of the publications. Are some major works or are they minor journal articles?

  16. #16 Angelo
    December 10, 2007

    Am I the only one that doesnt know what the “DI” is? Could someone elaborate, I feel like I should know, but I dont.

  17. #17 Bobby
    December 11, 2007

    I would be interested in a similar graph for Gonzalez’ colleagues at ISU. Right now there is nothing to compare so it is difficult to say that Gonzalez is underperforming.

    Surely you can see that the plot goes way up and then immediately goes way down. That’s not the kind of trend senior faculty are looking for when they vote on an assistant professor’s tenure.

    There is no indication of the nature of the publications. Are some major works or are they minor journal articles?

    Some of them were in a very prestigious journal.

  18. #18 Bobby
    December 11, 2007

    Am I the only one that doesnt know what the “DI” is? Could someone elaborate, I feel like I should know, but I dont.

    In the context of ID, it means “Discovery Institute”, the premier peddlers of the piffle.

  19. #19 William Wilcox
    December 11, 2007

    Bobby said: “Surely you can see that the plot goes way up and then immediately goes way down”.

    Sure, but without some other standard there is no way to know if this is typical, or if his productivity was extraordinary at one point and now is more typical or not.

    It would also be important to look at the citations of Gonzalez’ work in other papers and publications to evaluate the quality of the work.

  20. #20 Bobby
    December 11, 2007
    Surely you can see that the plot goes way up and then immediately goes way down.

    Sure, but without some other standard there is no way to know if this is typical

    Unfortunately, it appears to happen a lot when people get tenure and the pressure is off. (At least conventional wisdom holds that; I’ve never seen any numbers.)

    But to plummet *before* you get tenure is career suicide. Basically the people who get to vote try to extrapolate what you did the previous six years to predict how you’re going to do in the future. If your past few years were a downward slide they’re going to assume the worst.

    or if his productivity was extraordinary at one point and now is more typical or not.

    His average of two per year for the past five years is definitely sub-par for anyone seeking tenure in a department that expects faculty to do research.

    It would also be important to look at the citations of Gonzalez’ work in other papers and publications to evaluate the quality of the work.

    IANAAstronomer, but as I understand it some of his early work was in fact very good and does get cited. But, also AIUI, that was mostly work done before ISU picked him up, and *all* before he sold his soul to the creationist movement.

  21. #21 George
    December 13, 2007

    Come on now. That science stuff is hard work and does not pay so well. With ID you just make it up as you see fit. And write a book that makes some bucks.

    Better yet, then you lose tenure and boost your profile (look at poor little old me) and write another book.

  22. #22 geciktirici
    December 23, 2007

    I would be interested in a similar graph for Gonzalez’ colleagues at ISU. Right now there is nothing to compare so it is difficult to say that Gonzalez is underperforming.

  23. #23 Brian
    March 16, 2008

    Thank you for posting this!
    I’m making a rebuttal film to be shown at my local theater during screenings of Ben Stein’s “Expelled”. Your information is EXACTLY the kind of thing I need!

    Please feel free to forward me any further information along these lines!

  24. #24 Bilbo
    April 1, 2008

    This data may not represent the whole story. Any scientist that writes about a topic that even hints at ID can have trouble getting his peer-reviewed paper published in mainstream scientific journals. The predominantly darwinist scientific community censors the ID proponent’s publications by refusing to publish them. So, voila – no publications! It is a very convenient control mechanism. Many of these proponents have written books and write articles that are available on the web in abundance.

  25. #25 Evil Monkey
    April 1, 2008

    Of course the data doesn’t represent the “whole story”. For instance, Gonzalez didn’t successfully mentor any students during his tenure at ISU. Nor did he bring in but a pittance of grant money.

    However, as far as peer-reviewed journals are concerned, “Darwinists” don’t have to try to keep ID out. The ID folk rarely submit anything to peer-reviewed journals, ever; there’s nothing to block from publication!

    Occasionally a review article will be snuck into a third-tier journal. But novel research? They don’t even submit those papers because they don’t have any novel data to support them.

  26. #26 Donna
    April 27, 2008

    This is a very interesting evaluation of Gonzalez’ work but it would be much more effective if you compared it to the professors who were given tenure at Iowa State. Then there would be no question.

  27. #27 Stephen Jaros
    May 10, 2008

    Your post seems rather biased. First, you delete 4 of Gonzos ISU publications, on grounds that 3 are re-analyses and the 4th is a review article and thus the tenure committee would be unlikely to take them seriously.

    This is bogus. If REFEREED JOURNALS took them seriously enough to devote critical, scarce space to those articles, then obviously the journals believed it was because they make NEW contributions to knowledge. And thus any tenure committee not biased against the candidate would take them seriously.

    Second, you can’t say (truthfully, btw) that tenure committees evaluate a candidate on what they’ve published since joining that campus, and then post a graph that shows what Gonzo did BEFORE coming to ISU. All that does is serve to use his stellar past against him – in effect, punishing him for having had a great track record before coming to ISU, and it’s that prior track record that is supposed to be irrelevant.

    If his great track record before ISU can’t be used by his supporters to prop up his case, then surely it also can’t be used by his detractors to denigrate his case.

    Finally, the notion of a “downward trend” is itself misleading. What matters are the raw numbers. E.g., what if i’m a basketball player and a graph shows that my points per game has declined 10% per year for the past 5 years. That sounds bad, but what if i then told you that last year, i averaged 30 points per game? The “downward trend” just means i was super-spectacular in the past, but am now merely spectacular. It doesn’t mean i deserve to lose my job, does it?

    Bottom line: Gonzo had *27* peer-reviewed publications since 2001. I doubt very much a majority of the professors who voted against him had as good a track record. In almost all likelihood, Gonzo was screwed over by his ID stance.

  28. #28 Evil Monkey
    May 10, 2008

    Wow Steve, you seem pretty upset. Perhaps if you step back and look at the situation like a tenure committee member instead of like an ID soldier, you’ll relax a bit.

    I never said the tenure committee was unlikely to “take them seriously”. Try not to put words into my mouth, mmmkay? Thanks. Tenure committees will do about as much as I did with those papers: they’ll count them.

    However, the data was not gathered at ISU. No grant money was taken in by the university to support that research. The department will view the pubs favorably, but ultimately they’ll regard them as more fluff than anything. Whether the refereed journals took those papers seriously is of little consequence to the tenure committee’s decision. By your logic, none of my peer-reviewed papers should even have been fodder for my dissertation committee; they should’ve just said “oh hell, the studies were published. Let’s just give him a pass and go out for beer since he met the guidelines for graduation.” Bogus.

    Second, you can’t say (truthfully, btw) that tenure committees evaluate a candidate on what they’ve published since joining that campus, and then post a graph that shows what Gonzo did BEFORE coming to ISU. All that does is serve to use his stellar past against him – in effect, punishing him for having had a great track record before coming to ISU, and it’s that prior track record that is supposed to be irrelevant.

    It’s not irrelevant. Gonzalez’s past was taken into account… when he was hired. The department’s expectation was that he would continue to publish groundbreaking research in top-tier journals as he had been, bring in grant money to support new research at ISU, new trainees at ISU, and his salary at ISU, to actually mentor trainees to completion at ISU, and to form new collaborations which show that he can strike out on his own. He failed in those regards. Miserably. His prior productivity is completely relevant because it shows what he’s capable of, and what he did not do for ISU.

    If anybody used Gonzalez’s past against him, it was Gonzalez himself.

    It doesn’t mean i deserve to lose my job, does it?

    He is not entitled to his job. He is not entitled to tenure. His “job” was actually a probationary period, not a bunch of laurels to rest on.

    Bottom line: Gonzo had *27* peer-reviewed publications since 2001. I doubt very much a majority of the professors who voted against him had as good a track record. In almost all likelihood, Gonzo was screwed over by his ID stance.

    But much more goes into tenure than just publications. Virtually no grant money, whether with respect to his colleagues or considered individually. No mentored graduate students at ISU. No salary support at ISU. He was told every year since his mid-tenure review that he needed to turn that around. Shit, he didn’t even use the Templeton money for research like he was supposed to, he just wrote PP instead.

    The absolute numbers of his publications is not entirely meaningful. Different subfields within a discipline have different rates of publication. For instance, comparing the publications of a molecular biologist– who can pump out 4 papers a year no problem–with that of somebody who does monkey behavior is a waste of time. Monkey behaviorists might put out a paper a year. Which is why comparing the pre vs. post-ISU dropoff is absolutely essential; consider it a within-subject design.

  29. #29 travesti
    May 11, 2008

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  30. #30 Stephen Jaros
    May 11, 2008

    Wow “evil”, you seem pretty upset. Perhaps if you took a deep breath, stepped back for a moment, and tried to appraise the situation objectively, instead of as gonzo and ID hater, you’d come to a more level-headed conclusion.

    First, you claim i put words in your mouth. I did no such thing, as the absence of quotes in my comment attests. And substantively, you said you disregarded four of his articles on the grounds that(and here i AM using quotes, thus actually putting words in your mouth)… “so the committee likely won’t consider them to count much at all towards his work at ISU”.

    How on earth is that substantively different from saying the committee would be unlikely to take them seriously? I accurately characterized what you said. Sorry if you don’t like that – perhaps it means you shouldn’t have said it to begin with?

    Then, in this last post, you tie yourself in knots trying to explain what you meant, saying the committee will “count the pubs”, view them “favorably”, but ultimately view them as “more fluff than anything” (!!!).

    Clearly, you were wrong to disregard those 4 pubs. It is purely reflective of your anti-gonzo agenda.

    Then, you say:

    “Whether the refereed journals took those papers seriously is of little consequence to the tenure committee’s decision.”

    That’s astonishing. It darn sure should be. A journal pub reflects the belief by independent experts, that the papers make a substantial contribution to knowledge. Why on earth would any tenure committee worth its salt consider that to be of little consequence?

    As for when and where the data was collected, and no grant money being brought in to support that research? Now those factors SHOULD be largely irrelevant to the committee. When and where the data collected is prima facie irrelevant, given the assessment of the journals that the papers contribute new knowledge. And grant money is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Its purpose is to fund research. But if a new contribution to science can be made without new grant money, then why on earth would we hold that against the researcher?

    Then, you provide some convoluted stuff about “my logic” as you believe it applies to your dissertation committee. This is confusing, since a dissertation committee would be concerned with the quality of your … dissertation. Of course if earlier chapters had been published in journals, then that should make a favorable impression on the committee, as independent evidence that your dissertation really is making a contribution, but it wouldn’t necessarily be decisive in evaluating its totality.

    Then, about the use of gonzo’s pre-ISU record, you say:

    “it’s not irrelevant. Gonzalez’s past was taken into account… when he was hired. The department’s expectation was that he would continue to publish groundbreaking research in top-tier journals as he had been, bring in grant money to support new research at ISU, new trainees at ISU, and his salary at ISU, to actually mentor trainees to completion at ISU, and to form new collaborations which show that he can strike out on his own. He failed in those regards. Miserably. His prior productivity is completely relevant because it shows what he’s capable of, and what he did not do for ISU.”

    Of course his pre-ISU record was considered before he was hired. It was the basis on which he was hired. Why state the obvious? But we’re talking about the tenure decision, and that decision is supposed to be based on what he did since joining ISU.

    Now sure, when they hired Gonzo, perhaps they HOPED he’d continue to publish at the astonishing rate he exhibited before coming to ISU, hoped he’d bring in millions of dollars in grant money. But equally surely, failure to meet that stellar standard can’t rationally be used as grounds to deny tenure, since tenure criteria are meant to apply to everyone, all candidates for tenure, not just a single candidate like gonzo.

    For example, the Des Moines Register reported that:

    “ISU�s physics and astronomy tenure policy, which said promotion to an associate professor requires potential to achieve a national or international reputation, a standard demonstrated by the publication of 15 papers in peer-reviewed journals�.”

    See? That’s a STANDARD to be applied to everyone, even if they had published 1000 articles before being hired. Of course, it’s a flexible standard, more of a guideline. But with 25-27 peer-reviewed pubs during his time at ISU, it beggars belief to argue that gonzo didn’t meet it. An argument that says “well, yes, he did more than exceed our standard, but my gosh given what he’d done BEFORE coming here, our hopes were so much higher, and THEREFORE we are denying tenure” would be absurd on its face.

    Then you say:

    “He is not entitled to his job. He is not entitled to tenure. His “job” was actually a probationary period, not a bunch of laurels to rest on.”

    Who ever said he was entitled to his job or tenure? He had to earn the job and tenure. And publishing 25+ articles during his time at ISU can’t be called “resting on his laurels”, can it?

    Then you say:

    “But much more goes into tenure than just publications. Virtually no grant money, whether with respect to his colleagues or considered individually. No mentored graduate students at ISU. No salary support at ISU. He was told every year since his mid-tenure review that he needed to turn that around. Shit, he didn’t even use the Templeton money for research like he was supposed to, he just wrote PP instead.The absolute numbers of his publications is not entirely meaningful. Different subfields within a discipline have different rates of publication. For instance, comparing the publications of a molecular biologist– who can pump out 4 papers a year no problem–with that of somebody who does monkey behavior is a waste of time. Monkey behaviorists might put out a paper a year.”

    Come on. Sure, things like grant money and students matriculated matter, but the publication record is the 800-pound gorilla of the tenure process. That’s the bottom line w/regard to intellectual contribution.

    As for your “sub fields” argument, who at ISU has ever claimed that gonzo’s pub record failed to meet the standards of his “sub field”, whatever that is? We DO know that the ISU department of astronomy and physics has a general standard of 15 papers and that gonzo clearly exceeded that.

    Finally, you say:

    “Which is why comparing the pre vs. post-ISU dropoff is absolutely essential; consider it a within-subject design.”

    What ..? In your original post, you claimed that the tenure committee would “consider work that comes in after one joins the university to be of prime importance.”

    Yet another contradiction.

    A fair-minded person would look for an alternative explanation for his denial of tenure: his ID stance being the elephant in the living room.

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