Stranger Fruit

Behe’s publications, Part II

Over at this thread, a reader asked for Behe’s publication record in a similar format to Gonzalez’s. Glad to oblige. (As always, click for a big ’un).

i-194d9b1cd44da5161138ce21c614f7a8-behe2_preview.jpg

Note how his productivity drops off hugely once he gets publicly involved with ID in 1991. Much like Gonzalez, Behe’s most productive period occurs just before he embraces design and from then on, its all downhill.

Update: Readers might want to contrast Behe’s record with that of Sean B. Carroll.

Comments

  1. #1 Chris Marks
    December 6, 2007

    Perhaps a graph or two for ‘real’ scientists would drive the point home. One thing I thought while looking at the cumulative graph was that critics of the tenure system might suggest that flat-lining after full professorship is typical.

  2. #2 Scott Belyea
    December 6, 2007

    Question from someone whose experience is in the bizarre world of multinational hightech rather than the bizarre world of academia – after a few years of clawing up the ladder, is the normal pattern that an individual would be “first author” on a majority of papers?

    And I also wonder about weighting i.e. some publications are obviously worth more than others based on a combination of “work to produce” and “significance/acceptance.” For example, I’ve seen reference to checking how often a paper is referenced as one measure of “sigificance/acceptance.”

    I guess what I’m really thrashing at here is how misleading a simple measure of # of pubs could be. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not gearing up to defend Behe. It’s more general curiosity.

  3. #3 John Lynch
    December 6, 2007

    @Scott:

    1. You’d expect to see a shift from first author to last author over time if the researcher is attracting graduate students and publishing with them (though it’s not a hard and fast rule).

    2. Yes, certainly some papers are cired more than others. But the point here is that overall, Behe’s productivity has taken a severe hit since he first got involved with “design theory.” One would imagine that if it was indeed a fruitful paradigm for solving biological problems then his productivity should in fact have increased!

    @Chris

    Yes, such a comparison would indeed be useful. Again, though, I cant help but feel that Behe (even asa Full professor) should be writing papers with his graduate students. Then again, he may not have any.

  4. #4 Marc Connor
    December 7, 2007

    Wow! Thanks!

  5. #5 Steve Matheson
    December 7, 2007

    Nicely done, but my enthusiasm is tempered just a bit by the fact that a graph with different numbers at the bottom, and a different book cover iconically displayed, would perfectly depict the scholarly trajectory of the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University.

  6. #6 John Lynch
    December 7, 2007

    @ Steve

    Certainly true enough (though I don’t have Dawkins’ CV in front of me).

    Then again, Behe – not Dawkins – is the one claiming to be molding a “new science for a new century” and to be engaged in a paradigm shift akin to that of Lavoisier, Einstein, Newton & Darwin. Surely *his* publication record should reflect such ground-breaking work?

  7. #7 Siamang
    December 7, 2007

    MUCH better. Thanks!

  8. #8 djlactin
    December 7, 2007

    40 refereed papers in 30 years; 14 as first author. And this guy got TENURE?! Heck, even I have more first-author papers than he does, and that wasn’t enough even to get me a permanent position! hmmm. what’s DI’s mailing address?

  9. #9 Joe
    December 7, 2007

    Please excuse the trivial, but it makes my teeth itch when I read this, it should be:

    drops OFF hugely

  10. #10 Richard Wein
    December 7, 2007

    Dawkins’ chair is in the “Public Understanding of Science”, so I suppose it’s his job to do popular science writing and public lectures rather than research.

  11. #11 pzadunaisky
    December 7, 2007

    Well… you can always say that ever since he became a part of the ID movement, the “official academia” shut its doors to him and no longer let him publish in journals, out of sheer “Materialist Darwinism” o “Darwinian materialism”. I don’t know howit goes in biology, but in mathematics, many of the greatest mathematicians ever published just a handful of papers, like Galois, Riemann, etc. In the case of Grothendieck, who did for mathematics what Behe claims to be doing for biology, I’m sure his chart would look just like that (of course, he had academia begin him to publish his works :P).

  12. #12 truth machine
    December 7, 2007

    Dawkins’ chair is in the “Public Understanding of Science”, so I suppose it’s his job to do popular science writing and public lectures rather than research.

    So should someone with a chair in Public Works be digging ditches? As a scholar, Dawkins should be doing scholarly research into how to further the public understanding of science.

  13. #13 Ex-drone
    December 7, 2007

    Okay, I have now seen the Gonzalez and Behe graphs, and I get it, but not being in the academic environment, I have no baseline for reference. I would appreciate seeing a graph for someone who has an admirable publishing profile so that I can appreciate the magnitude of the difference.

  14. #14 rjb
    December 7, 2007

    I’m also no fan of Behe’s, but you’ll see similar drops in productivity from lots of scientists following tenure. Not most, definitely, but quite a few slow down after the pressure of tenure is removed. Often, this may lead to a precipitous drop, because then funding dries up, lab space is taken away, etc.

    That’s actually a good question in the Behe case. Since he has not been “productive” by the standard metrics of the field, has his department and college penalized him by taking away lab space, increasing teaching and/or service commitments, and other obligations? This is what would happen at just about any other institution. But I wonder if due to the politics of his particular situation, this has not occurred.

  15. #15 SLC
    December 7, 2007

    Re Behe

    “Yes, such a comparison would indeed be useful. Again, though, I cant help but feel that Behe (even asa Full professor) should be writing papers with his graduate students. Then again, he may not have any.”

    What graduate student in his right mind having busted his butt to get into a respectable school such as Lehigh, would want Prof. Behe as his thesis adviser?

  16. #16 djlactin
    December 7, 2007

    Dawkins’ chair is in the “Public Understanding of Science”, so I suppose it’s his job to do popular science writing and public lectures rather than research.

    So should someone with a chair in Public Works be digging ditches? As a scholar, Dawkins should be doing scholarly research into how to further the public understanding of science.

    perhaps Dawkins’ raw number of publications is relatively low, but his impact factor is huge!

  17. #17 nunyer
    December 7, 2007

    . . . or will the DI spin these graphs to state that “look, once you stand up for ID, those evil atheistic Darwinists won’t recognize your work”?

  18. #18 Bobby
    December 7, 2007

    I’m also no fan of Behe’s, but you’ll see similar drops in productivity from lots of scientists following tenure.

    If you click the image you get a bigger view of the plot that allows you to read the bar across the top, which shows that he got tenure in 1985. But he continuted on a generally upward trend until 1991 before the sudden drop. I wouldn’t expect momentum from stuff already in the pipeline to last more than a couple of years.

  19. #19 Lassi Hippeläinen
    December 7, 2007

    As a comparison, how about the publication records of two SciBlings: Chad Orzel got tenure, but Rob Knop gave up trying.

  20. #20 simmirans
    December 7, 2007

    Dawkins’ job description is here: http://www.simonyi.ox.ac.uk/aims/index.shtml . It’s about communicating science to the public, not researching how to communicate science to the public.

  21. #21 bsci
    December 7, 2007

    I used scopus to get a pub record for Dawkins. R Dawkins is a moderately common name is it’s hard to group them correctly. Also many of his academic publications are opinion pieces in academic journals which aren’t peer reviewed. Here are the numbers:
    He had one publication in 1997, 2000, 2003, and 2004. Two in 2007, and Three in 2005.
    His h factor (a function of the number of academics who reference his work) is 2, which is extremely low.

    Chad Orzel has an h factor of 6 (also fairly low, but he’s younger) with one publication in 1996, 2001, and 2006. Two pubs in 1997, 1998, 1999. Three in 2005. Not sure when he got tenure, but the 2002-4 dip seems likely.

    An faculty member I know who no one would know if you weren’t in the sub-field, but got tenure in the late 80′s (like Behe) and is at a top school) has an h factor of 17 and publishes 4-7 articles per year from 2001-2006.

    In general, even if you have a small lab with 2 or 3 people total, it’s a good assumption that a biology lab will publish AT LEAST one paper every other year per person. Any less than that is strange. What this probably means is Behe isn’t taking students or no one wants to work for him.

  22. #22 George
    December 7, 2007

    However, if we were to look at his income over this same period, we would see the compelling reason for this shift in focus.

  23. #23 Steve Matheson
    December 7, 2007

    John, I think the similarity between Dawkins and Behe/Wells (especially Wells) is striking, and you have noted the only relevant difference, which I would paraphrase like so: Dawkins is right, and Behe and Wells are wrong. In fact, Behe had a more productive research career than Dawkins (by far). Wells’ accomplishments are pitiful by any standard, but a careful examination of Dawkins’ CV reveals a very brief and relatively undistinguished stint in ethology, followed by a transition to his current incarnation as a popular science writer. The transition seemed to occur around 1980. Dawkins’ research papers were far more substantial than Wells’, but are only slightly more numerous. The difference between Jonathan Wells and Richard Dawkins is apparent when comparing Icons of Evolution to The Extended Phenotype, not when analyzing their comparably insignificant contributions to the primary literature.

    Pointing at Dawkins’ current position is unhelpful; he stopped contributing to the primary scientific literature 15 years before assuming that post, and hasn’t been involved in scientific research for nearly 3 decades.

    I think it’s a big mistake to overdo the focus on publication patterns. What you’re demonstrating, in my view, is not specifically an effect of ID on scholarly productivity. It’s an effect of leaving experimental science for the barely-related practices of science writing and meta-theorizing. Wells has done it, Dawkins has done it, PZ has done it, Behe has done it.

  24. #24 bsci
    December 7, 2007

    Steve, I think the difference is that Dawkins is mostly honest about this while Behe is not. It took a while, but Dawkins eventually left his academic department because he realized his work no longer fits there. Behe remains in his and uses his affiliation to justify the validity of his writing. That said, I’m not a big fan of Dawkins or the “new atheist” crowd in general. It will be interesting to see if Sam Harris ever even finishes his neuroscience PhD or did he cut his own actual science career short before it even started.

    Still to be clear, publications are the one and only true measure of academic productivity. If your research isn’t openly communicated in publications (usually peer-reviewed), then it is the equivalent of producing no research at all.

  25. #25 Davis
    December 7, 2007

    As a scholar, Dawkins should be doing scholarly research into how to further the public understanding of science.

    I usually appreciate your snark tm, but this time you’re uninformed. If you read the aims of the Simonyi Professorship, you’ll find this:

    The Professor should communicate scientific ideas through a variety of media, in order to reach a wide range of people. These include, but are not limited to, public lectures, writing articles and books, and television and radio appearances.

    There’s nothing there about publishing research articles; by the standards of this description, Dawkins is doing exactly what the position asks.

  26. #26 John Lynch
    December 7, 2007

    Yup, it needs to be pointed out that Behe’s drop-off didn’t happen when he got tenure (’85), but in the early 90′s, just as he was getting involved with ID.

  27. #27 John Stockwell
    December 7, 2007

    How about posting a similar graph of Sean B. Carroll’s publications,
    or maybe some of the scientists off of the Steve list?

    (This could become the new required figure in every scientists’ resume.)

  28. #28 John Lynch
    December 7, 2007

    @ John Stockwell

    Done!.

  29. #29 Ford
    December 7, 2007

    The Selfish Gene has been cited over 5000 times, according to Google Scholar. What I’d like to see is a graph of citations over years, with shading indicating year of publication. Active scientists should continue to publish new work that gets cited, but continuing citation of older work is an indication of its lasting importance.

  30. #30 bsci
    December 7, 2007

    Ford, that’s called the h factor. It’s calculation of total number of publications vs. how many times each publication is cited. It usually only uses publications from the past 10 years. Scopus.com does the calculations show show both citations and publications/year, but I think it’s behind a pay wall. Also note that The Selfish Gene is not a peer reviewed publication and google scholar shows more than just peer reviewed citations so neither is of much relevance to Dawkins scholarly academic profile. As said above, Dawkins left the world of academic science research and thus is not the right person to compare to Behe and others who say that are still practicing scientists.

  31. #31 David Wilbur
    December 20, 2007

    pzadunaisky seriously did not use Galois as an example of a little published but influential mathematician. He was killed in a dual six months shy of his twenty-first birthday, the six months prior to that he served in a French prison – a conducive environment to mathematical research I’m sure.

  32. #32 Joao
    March 29, 2008

    If anyone wants to check on Richard Dawkins’ CV up to 30-Mar-2005
    here it is
    . Compare to Mr. Behe’s and take your conclusions.

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