Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Beware Search Committees: Faculty CVs Often Are Too Good to Be True

Inside Higher Ed, When CVs Are Too Good to Be True:

When we think about academic misconduct, we tend to think about misrepresentation of research findings or plagiarism. But a new study says that misrepresentation of academic achievements on CVs is a problem requiring attention, too [Trisha Phillips (West Virginia), R. Kyle Saunders (Florida State), Jeralynn Cossman (West Virginia) & Elizabeth Heitman (Texas), Assessing Trustworthiness in Research: A Pilot Study on CV Verification].

For their experiment, the researchers collected each and every curriculum vitae submitted for all faculty positions at a large, purposely unnamed research university over the course of a year. Then they let the CVs sit for 18 to 30 months to allow any pending articles to mature into publications that they could verify.

To make the data set manageable, the researchers eventually analyzed 10 percent of the sample for accuracy. Of the 180 CVs reviewed, 141, or 78 percent, claimed to have at least one publication. But 79 of those 141 applicants (56 percent) had at least one publication on their CV that was unverifiable or inaccurate in a self-promoting way, such as misrepresenting authorship order.

Trisha Phillips, the paper’s lead author and an associate professor of political science at West Virginia University who studies research ethics, said Wednesday that it’s impossible to tell based on the study’s methodology whether the faculty applicants intended to mislead hiring committees or whether they were making honest mistakes. But she pointed out that the analysis identified just 27 errors that were not self-promoting, such as demoting oneself in authorship order. That’s compared to 193 errors that were self-promoting. ...

What could be motivating this behavior? Phillips said that just as the publish-or-perish dynamic on the tenure track can encourage the big three of deliberate misconduct (data fabrication, falsification or plagiarism) or other detrimental research practices, the tight job market may encourage CV embellishment. “This likelihood of getting caught is low, and the rewards for getting away with it is high,” Phillips added.

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