John G. West Political Scientist and Cultural Critic

Chronicle of Higher Education Unearths New Evidence in Support of Gonzalez, But Tries to Discount It

Published at Evolution News
An article today by Chronicle of Higher Education reporter Richard Monastersky reveals new evidence that further strengthens the case that pro-ID astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez was denied tenure at Iowa State University on illegitimate grounds, although Monastersky does his best to downplay the evidence through spin and speculation. According to Monastersky, data from a prestigious Smithsonian/NASA astrophysics database show that Gonzalez has the highest rating for citations to his work of anyone in his department: “Mr. Gonzalez has a normalized h-index of 13,” the second highest in his department. The fact that Gonzalez—an Assistant Professor—is ranked higher than almost every other member of his department, including full tenured professors, is incredible. Even the originator of the h-index rating (physicist Jorge Hirsch) concedes the point: “Under normal circumstances, Mr. Gonzalez’s publication record would be stellar and would warrant his earning tenure at most universities, according to Mr. Hirsch.” (emphasis added) Hirsch’s assessment especially would seem to be true at a university like ISU, where the approval rate for tenure applications was 91% in 2007! But then comes the spin. Although Hirsch acknowledges “he has not studied Mr. Gonzalez’s work in detail and is not an expert on his tenure case,” that doesn’t stop him from ill-informed speculation: “It’s not clear that he started new things, or anything on his own, in the period he was an assistant professor at Iowa State.” (How the heck would Hirsch know, if “he has not studied Mr. Gonzalez’s work in detail”?) The same kind of speculation is offered by David L. Lambert, who supervised some of Gonzalez’s postdoctoral work in the 1990s, and admits that it was good. But he adds that “I don’t know what else he has done” (emphasis added) since arriving at Iowa State. So now professed ignorance of Gonzalez’s work is apparently considered adequate grounds for dismissing it. Buried in Monastersky’s article is additional information that places these attacks on Gonzalez in a different light:
Mr. Gonzalez’s publication record, however, does list 21 papers since 2002, many in top journals. “It looks to me like discrimination,” said one astronomer, who did not want to be named, fearing a backlash for speaking up in favor of an intelligent-design proponent. “They can’t say that he doesn’t have a decent publication record, because he absolutely does,” said the astronomer of Mr. Gonzalez’s scholarship. Mr. Gonzalez also published a textbook, through Cambridge University Press, that is being used by other faculty members in the department.
In other words, even if one counts only the articles Gonzalez has published since 2002 (the year after he came to ISU), he still has produced significantly more papers than the 15 needed to fulfill the benchmark for research excellence specified by his own department’s tenure standards. He also has co-authored a refereed astronomy textbook published by Cambridge University Press that is used by faculty in his own department. Thus, 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. Of course, intelligent design had nothing to do with Gonzalez’s denial of tenure. Keep repeating that statement 100 times and perhaps someone will believe it. [UPDATED on May 28, 2007 at 9:26 am. Article originally reported that Gonzalez had highest h-index in department based on Chronicle of Higher Education report; but Chronicle erred in its calculations and posted an updated calculation here.]

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.
Discovery Institute