Which bring us to the curious and disturbing case of Derek Pyne, an economics professor at Thompson Rivers University (TRU) in Kamloops, B.C. Prof. Pyne was banned from campus and suspended, with pay, by his school this past summer over research he conducted into so-called predatory journals – publications that offer academics a home to publish their research (sometimes for as little as a hundred bucks) with little to no scrutiny of the work itself.
But he didn’t just say it; he wrote a research paper and had it published – that’s why he was banned!
Prof. Pyne had his peer-reviewed study published last year in the University of Toronto’s respected Journal of Scholarly Publishing. His research found that 50 per cent of more than three dozen administrators and professors in one faculty at a particular Canadian university (later identified as TRU’s department of business and economics) had their careers furthered by getting work printed in outlets with highly questionable professional credentials.
The suspended professor has said he raised his findings with both the president and provost of TRU but his concerns were ignored. On the contrary, he was made the problem and was very quickly kicked off campus.
As far as why Prof. Pyne was suspended, all the school has said is he used defamatory language and accusations in his writings on the matter.
Retraction Watch interviewed Pyne:
The paper was published while I was spending part of my sabbatical at the Athens University of Economics and Business. I only had direct contact with specific people via email. They tell me that there was little said in the business school. However, when the related op-ed came out, an arts faculty person distributed a copy on a university email list. Another arts faculty member than read the paper and emailed his summary and views to the list. After this, I started getting requests for the paper from people across the university (particularly science and arts people). It was put on the agenda of both an arts faculty council meeting and a university senate meeting (but it was not on the agenda of the business school’s faculty council meeting). The minutes of the senate meeting are not public yet, but I’m told that administrators who had originally ignored my findings, suddenly spoke disapprovingly of publishing in predatory journals.
I have a couple of suggestions for addressing the issue. One problem we have is that no one in our Dean’s office has a research background. I would hope that administers with research backgrounds would place a greater value on honest research. Moreover, I think they would be in a better position to recognize suspicious publication records. Thus, the first action I would recommend would be hiring administrators with research backgrounds.
In addition, I found that the issue only got attention after my op-ed was published. I am not saying that other universities would be unwilling to address the issue before getting to this point. However, honest faculty have to be willing to stand up for academic integrity. If internal actions cannot bring change, it is sometimes necessary to go further. In my view, the job security of tenure is wasted on people who turn a blind eye to such wrong doing.