Evolution News and Views (ENV) provides original reporting and analysis about the debate over intelligent design and evolution, including breaking news about scientific research.

Evolution News and Views

Pro-Intelligent Design Astronomer Denied Tenure Ranks Top in His Department According to Smithsonian/NASA Database

Action Item: Help Guillermo Gonzalez in his fight for academic freedom. Contact ISU President Gregory L. Geoffroy at (515) 294-2042 or email him at president@iastate.edu and let him know that you support academic freedom for Dr. Gonzalez to follow the evidence wherever it leads.
Guillermo Gonzalez, the pro-intelligent design astronomer recently denied tenure by Iowa State University (ISU), ranks the highest in his department according to a key measure of the scientific impact of his work calculated using the Smithsonian/NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS), a widely used database tracking published scientific research in astronomy.

How frequently a scientist's work is cited by other scientists is an important indicator of the impact the scientist is having on the scientific community. The Smithsonian/NASA data system allows one to compute a "normalized" citation count that corrects for inflated citation rates caused by articles with multiple authors. In the normalized citation count, an article published by a scientist with many co-authors is weighted less than an article authored by the scientist alone.

Gonzalez joined ISU in 2001. His normalized citation count for articles published during 2001-2007 is 143, the best of any other astronomer in his department during this period. The next best citation count among all of his astronomer colleagues is 103; and the best citation count for a tenured astronomer in his department is only 68, or less than half of Gonzalez's count.

"In other words, Iowa State denied tenure to a scientist whose impact on his field during the past six years outstripped all of the university's existing tenured astronomers according to a prestigious Smithsonian/NASA database," said Dr. John West, Associate Director of the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute.

"It's important to stress that the normalized citation counts for 2001-2007 only include citations to articles published during the most recent 6 years, yet Gonzalez is still the top ranked in his department," added Discovery Institute analyst Casey Luskin, M.S., J.D., who computed the citation counts using the Smithsonian/NASA data system. "These statistics refute any claim that Gonzalez's scholarly productivity and impact 'trailed off' since coming to Iowa State."

In fact, if one looks at normalized citation counts for articles published during individual years, Gonzalez topped his astronomy colleagues in 2001, 2003, and again in 2006 (the most recent full year for which statistics are available). In addition, he came in second in his department in 2002. The years in which Gonzalez was not first in his department in normalized citations likely reflect his work on two major book projects--The Privileged Planet, written under a competitive research grant from the Templeton Foundation that was awarded after a peer-review process by several leading astronomers; and Observational Astronomy, a peer-reviewed college-level astronomy textbook published by Cambridge University Press in 2006.

According to Luskin, "This new data adds to the mounting evidence that Gonzalez may have been denied tenure at ISU not because of his record as a scientist, but because of discrimination against his views in support of intelligent design."

Amazingly, even if one compares the lifetime normalized citation counts for all of the astronomers at ISU, Gonzalez comes out in second place. The only colleague who has a higher lifetime normalized count than Gonzalez is a senior tenured astronomer who already is a full professor.

"For an untenured assistant professor to best nearly everyone in his department in lifetime normalized citations is most impressive, and it makes even more indefensible the university's decision to deny him tenure," comments Luskin.

The normalized citation count is not the only measure of impact on the scientific community by which Gonzalez is ranked highly among the astronomers in his department. As reported last week in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Gonzalez also ranks second among his astronomer colleagues according to the "h-index" statistic, which similarly seeks to measure how widely a scientist's articles are cited by other scientists. According to the Chronicle, "Mr. Gonzalez has a normalized h-index of 13."

A full discussion of these findings, along with the data supporting them, is provided in an article by Luskin posted here.

[UPDATED on May 28, 2007 at 9:25 am. Article originally reported that Gonzalez had highest h-index in department based on Chronicle of Higher Education report; but the Chronicle erred in its calculations and posted an updated calculation here.]