[LETTERS to the editor]The perils of self promotion

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[LETTERS to the editor]The perils of self promotion


An institution will often use authorship as an example of a creative contribution that deserves a promotion. It’s not surprising, then, that Kaist President Suh Nam-pyo has decided to give professors higher rewards for doing such things as presenting their work in prestigious international science journals.
One of the questionable practices in the scientific community includes breaking down research results and publishing as many components as possible and rotating first authorship by successively publishing a series of related papers in several different disciplinary journals. This proliferation of collaborative authorship is a serious problem. Inviting honorary authors, usually a form of homage to powerful mentors, only adds to the problem. In the journal Radiology, for example, 33 percent of the authors didn’t meet their responsibilities for study concept and design, data acquisition or data analysis and interpretation.
“The quality of professors at Kaist is not largely different from top schools such as Harvard University,” Suh insists.
In an article in The Crimson newspaper, Harvard senior Brian Gillis said he would like to take the History of Medieval Political Theory. The professor, a 44-year veteran of the government department, is notorious for giving C’s. “The difficulty with doing something about grade inflation is that it has no constituency; only a few grouches like myself,” the professor said. He also said that one of his main jobs was to distinguish the best students from the next best.
Under the new policy of President Suh, Kaist students with at least a B average will be given full scholarships.
The fraction of failures among all Harvard undergraduate grades remains at a two-decade low of 0.4 percent. A’s accounted for 23.7 percent of all grades given to Harvard undergrads last academic year, while A-minuses accounted for an additional 25 percent.
The table of atomic weights lists Berkeleyium and Californium. For the past dozen years, the University of California system has been the leading educational entity in developing new patents. MIT and Stanford are in the Top 10 list in this regard, but Harvard isn’t.
The majority of graduate students in engineering at the following institutions are foreigners: UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, MIT, California Institute of Technology, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Wisconsin and Georgia Institute of Technology. Seoul National University has eight foreign professors, in total. Kyungpook National University and Pukyong National University, together, have as many. Kaist currently has more than 416 professors who hold Korean citizenship.
I fear that when the 44-year veteran retires from the Harvard faculty ― unless he is pushed under a truck ― I’ll be one of the half-dozen grouches left.
Richard Thompson, Hankuk Academy of Foreign Studies, Yongin, Gyeonggi

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