Inspector General’s investigation targets CUNY staff research

Inspector General’s investigation targets CUNY staff research
Photo by Michael Shain
By Mark Hallum

CUNY professors are under scrutiny from the state Inspector General’s office for possibly using pay-to-play publications to get easy tenure and advance their careers.

But what started as an investigation of up to 12 faculty members at Queensborough Community College, according to the New York Post, widened into a probe into the wider CUNY system last week, the newspaper reported.

But CUNY Interim Associate Vice Chancellor Daniel McCloskey responded to the negative press with an internal memo calling for faculty to open a dialogue regarding the issue.

“At this time, due to the rapidly changing landscape of publishing and the lack of frank discussion about this topic nationally or locally, it is difficult to know the nature and extent of this problem at CUNY, but the reputations of our faculty, colleges and the university are at stake,” McCloskey wrote. “In order to be sure that all faculty, review committees and college administrators follow best practices moving forward, we implore you to open a dialogue with your academic department, program, center or institution… While rigorous peer-review may not be an option for all scholarship, it is important to be ethical as well as judicious and thoughtful about your publishing choices by selecting trustworthy publishers and correctly reporting the publication on your CV.”

One such publication used by professors was World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology, which is known to charge authors $600 to publish their research.

Neither Queensborough nor CUNY could be reached for comment by the TimesLedger Newspapers.

David Lieberman, chairman of the Queensborough Physics Department, had his name on five papers published by WASET between 2008 and 2015. Nidhi Gadura, chairwoman of the Biological Science and Geology Department at QCC, was also found to have authored three papers with WASET, the website showed.

Lieberman makes an annual salary of about $188,000 per year while Gadura takes home a salary of about $167,000 in taxpayer money, according to the Post.

“There are a growing number of disreputable academic journals all over the world, but fortunately the impact at CUNY is quite limited,” CUNY spokesman Frank Sobrino told the Post. “Based on internal reviews, few CUNY faculty have been involved with such publications and we are working with all faculty to share awareness and best practices in disseminating the high-caliber research they produce. The university has been reviewing this matter and of course will work with the IG in any review.”

According to the University of Toronto, WASET is regarded as scam and is described by Science Magazine as a “predatory publication.”

WASET does not reveal where it is based, various committees and editorial review boards regarding different topics list professors from around the world on the site. Conferences are held internationally throughout the year and scheduled through 2020 where professors can present their research.

Faculty Executive Committee head and QCC social sciences Professor Philip Pecorino condemned the practice of paid publishing in comparison to the more academically challenging and sound approach of having research peer-reviewed prior to publication and said it diminishes the credibility of the CUNY system, the Post reported.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.