Sweden’s prominent academic watchdog now joins leading academics in supporting Dr Peter Boghossian following Portland State University’s decision to open an investigation into research misconduct relating to the so-called Grievance Studies Affair. Boghossian and his colleagues submitted several hoax papers that successfully exposed weaknesses in the refereeing and publication practices of a number of journals focusing on race, gender, fat and sexuality studies.
Academic Rights Watch’ letter of support, which was sent to the Vice President of the university, Professor M. R. McLellan, earlier can be read in its entirety below.
Dear Professor McLellan,
The investigation of alleged research misconduct by Dr Peter Boghossian has by now received considerable international attention. We would hereby like to urge you to without further delay discontinue the investigation and dismiss the allegations, since they are so obviously without basis.
The scientific rigour and quality of research relies heavily upon the institution of the peer-review system and constructive collegial critique and assessments, which in turn makes it highly important that we can rely on those checks and controls in the first place. An obvious way to test journals and their peer-review systems is to send in an obviously nonsensical paper for review. Dr Boghossian and his colleagues have subsequently gone public with their experiment, which is a crucial part of their project of journal quality checking.
Dr Boghossian and his colleagues have pursued and fulfilled an important task of academic quality control (and thereby followed a tradition preceded by for example the hoax by Professor Sokol in 1996). In so doing, they have exercised their academic freedom. On this note, the “UNESCO Recommendations concerning the Status of Higher Education Teaching Personnel” (1997: VI B, 31) state that:
Higher-education teaching personnel should have the right and opportunity, without discrimination of any kind, according to their abilities, to – – -, and to criticize the functioning of higher education institutions, including their own”
Dr Boghossians work is clearly aimed at criticizing the functioning of the higher education institution of peer review. Thus, any attempt to discipline or censor Dr Boghossian would be a violation of one of his fundamental academic rights.
We are hopeful that Portland State University will in the end make the right decision and fully protect rather than undermine the academic freedom of its faculty.
Erik J. Olsson
Professor of Theoretical Philosophy, Lund University
Jens Stilhoff Sörensen, Associate Professor, School of Global Studies, Göteborg University
Magnus Zetterholm, Associate Professor of New Testament Studies, Lund University