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The artificial intelligentsia

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Andrew Gelman gives us a hilarious and horrifying glimpse of the resume of a hyper-compensated academic administrator, who is publishing bogus research in a pseudo-academic journal, in order to pad said resume, along with that of his co-author wife, who is (surprise!) also on the faculty of the state flagship university where this guy is getting paid nearly $400K per year to be part of the “campus leadership.” (He’s the dean of the engineering school).

The paper Gelman quotes in full is two paragraphs of incoherent verbiage, that appear to have been generated by a pretty bad AI program. This is not hyperbole. It also features, per a commenter at Gelman’s blog, a photo of a fly that isn’t actually a representative of the species of fly “discussed” in the paper.

The journal in which this thing appears is full of similar texts. It turns out the director and president of the publisher of the journal is . . . the dean of the engineering school, who is also the Editor of the journal. And the “peer review process” at the journal often takes no more than a few days.

I don’t know anything about engineering as an academic discipline, but this guy’s whole career sounds like it might be pretty scammy from top to bottom:

I was curious to see what else Jones had published so I searched him on Google scholar and took a look at his three most-cited publications. The second of these appeared to be a textbook, and the third was basically 8 straight pages of empty jargon—ironic that a journal called Total Quality Management would publish something that has no positive qualities! The most-cited paper on the list was pretty bad too, an empty bit of make-work, the scientific equivalent of the reports that white-collar workers need to fill out and give to their bosses who can then pass these along to their bosses to demonstrate how productive they are. In short, this guy seems to be a well-connected time server in the Ed Wegman mode, minus the plagiarism.

He was a Program Director at the National Science Foundation! Your tax dollars at work.

In my increasingly cynical experience, “well connected time server” and “key figure in Campus Leadership ™” are terms that are rocketing towards synonym status at something approaching institutional light speed.

Clearly what’s going on here is that nobody reads anything any more, least of all search committees for candidates for $372,000 per year academic jobs. Or “jobs.”

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