More Word Karma

Karma DogmaAnother example of the effect of one’s words: some of you might be familiar with the recent snafu between the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and Steven Salaita. After Salaita made comments on social media that drew the ire of certain UIUC trustees and donors, the chancellor of UIUC, Phyllis Wise, revoked his job offer. The whole sequence of events stinks, but I do not wish to discuss free speech, breach of contract, or other implications of the case here. These details have already been explored admirably by others; for example, in this post by The Good Enough Professor, which happens to be listed in the blog roll at the lower right of the screen you are now staring at.

Here is what I do want to discuss: given Chancellor Wise’s pivotal role in dismissing Salaita as someone too disreputable — in words, if not in deeds — to be worthy of working at UIUC, it was highly likely that her own history would come under scrutiny. Sure enough, it has, and it appears she has passed off duplicate publications as original research. Two journal articles have been identified so far at Retraction Watch and PubPeer in which text was used verbatim from earlier articles, without proper citation. Original co-authors also were not listed.

It is ironic that the top administrator at a public university campus, having decided that a new hire is too unprofessional, has now been found to have violated some of the most basic professional norms of scientific research.