Wiley academic journal “Higher Education Quarterly” published obvious hoax article, then retracts

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports (via Powerline):

[…] one of the purported authors of the paper did respond to an email from The Chronicle, writing that the journal “ought to be embarrassed” for accepting such obviously shoddy work. “No referee asked to see our data,” wrote the alleged author, using the name Sage Owens, from the email address sageowens@tutanota.com. The writer declined to provide any other identifying details.

“No referee examined whether the list of universities was real,” the author said in their email. “No referee noticed the Forbes ratings cannot be correct. Every page has some glaring errors, but the central error is that the regression model is all wrong. Peer review does not protect against fraud,” the person wrote. “It should protect against nonsense and bullshit. In this case and in others, it did not.” . . .

“We plan to reveal the full extent of this hoax later,” the emailer wrote. “For now we recommend readers look for other fake papers.

Meanwhile the journal, part of the portfolio of commercial academic publisher Wiley (one of the Big Three together with Elsevier and Springer Nature) has retracted the paper. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/hequ.12360

According to an earlier Powerline report:

The study purports to demonstrate that “right wing” money is having a significant effect in pushing colleges to the right.

The first sign this is a hoax is that the article says the two authors, Sage Owens and Kal Avers-Lynde III, are on the economics faculty at UCLA, but I can find no record of their existence at UCLA or anywhere else, and no record of other publications by either author. I believe they do not exist. My suspicion is that the “authors” may be conservatives, or at least anti-leftists, who decided to see whether an article that flatters the deep biases of academia could get past peer review and into print.

And both that suspicion and the hypothesis have meanwhile been confirmed. I was immediately thinking of Alan Sokal’s “Social Text” hoax, and Steven Hayward of Powerline hadn’t forgotten that either.

In 1996 physicist Alan Sokal published an essay in Social Text–an influential academic journal of cultural studies–touting the deep similarities between quantum gravitational theory and postmodern philosophy. 

Soon thereafter, the essay was revealed as a brilliant parody, a catalog of nonsense written in the cutting-edge but impenetrable lingo of postmodern theorists. The event sparked a furious debate in academic circles and made the headlines of newspapers in the U.S. and abroad.

In Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science, Sokal and his fellow physicist Jean Bricmont expand from where the hoax left off. In a delightfully witty and clear voice, the two thoughtfully and thoroughly dismantle the pseudo-scientific writings of some of the most fashionable French and American intellectuals. More generally, they challenge the widespread notion that scientific theories are mere “narrations” or social constructions.

And speaking of the type of pompous intellectual frauds getting skewered in these spoofs, Anthony Faux-Xi says he represents science.

So it’s easy to criticize, but they’re really criticizing science because I represent science. That’s dangerous. To me, that’s more dangerous than the slings and the arrows that get thrown at me. I’m not going to be around here forever, but science is going to be here forever. And if you damage science, you are doing something very detrimental to society long after I leave. And that’s what I worry about.

“La science, c’est moi” (Fauxi XIV)?

UPDATE: [original meme deleted] much better meme by “Meme Commissar”:

3 thoughts on “Wiley academic journal “Higher Education Quarterly” published obvious hoax article, then retracts

  1. Examples abound.

    John Tierney has posted a review of Scott Atlas’ new book, A Plague Upon Our House: My Fight at the Trump White House to Stop COVID from Destroying America, at City Journal: https://www.city-journal.org/review-of-a-plague-upon-our-house-by-scott-atlas
    Tierney writes, “How could public officials vowing to ‘follow the science’ on Covid-19 persist in promoting ineffective strategies with terrible consequences? In a memoir of his time on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Scott W. Atlas provides an answer: because the nation’s governance was hijacked by three bureaucrats with scant interest in scientific research or debate—and no concern for the calamitous effects of their edicts. . . . Atlas says that Pence and the other members were regularly cowed into submission by three doctors who dominated from the start: Deborah Birx, the Task Force’s coordinator, along with Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control. Atlas calls them ‘the troika’ because of their strategy for presenting a united front, never disagreeing with one another during the meetings in the White House Situation Room. (Reporting later revealed that they had made a pact to resign in unison if any of them was fired.) . . . . It may seem incredible that the troika would violate a fundamental principle of public health by ignoring the devastating collateral damage of their policies, yet they never even pretended to conduct a cost-benefit analysis. . . .

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