Stanford's President (Tessier-Lavigne) Resigns SUPPOSEDLY because of flawed /fabricated science
Most research is still flawed & Most administrators are still superfluous/ Nothing is actually better, but we fired one guy, so lets celebrate!
Stanford University’s President is resigning — and the stated reason is because of flawed or fraudulent research. Worse, supposedly he exhibited a pattern of being reluctant to correct the record. (This is not good IMO).
But the truth is Science is just as bad after he leaves, and administrators will be just as unhelpful. Frankly, there are too many of them. One president resigns but the systemic issues remain untouched.
Here are 9 things you should be thinking about.
This might not be the real reason he is resigning. A few years ago Michigan’s president resigned over an “inappropriate” but consensual relationship that lasted decades. Some tell me that this was well known for years, and no one cared, but it was offered as a pro-forma reason to fire him when they wanted to fire him for other reasons. So #1, we have to ask if Stanford actually cares about the papers with fraud. They might just want M T-L out. Several people have told me this is indeed what is going on.
He is resigning as president, so he can focus on doing RESEARCH! But he messed up as a researcher, not as a president. Ironically, he is being punished by returning to the thing he did poorly. No one has said he was a bad president.
Bring the president of a university is not the same as being a scientist. It has 0% overlapping skills. Perhaps the only thing a president should have learned in a past life as a scientist is to defend academic freedom, but I am not sure Stanford learned this lesson. They did a poor job defending that freedom during the pandemic. The faculty senate condemned Scott Atlas, for the high crime of being correct of kids, schools, masks, and made life hard for Jay Bhattacharya, John Ioannidis, Eran Bendavid and more— simply because they were lockdown skeptics.
Science is on a spectrum. Supposedly the Stanford president had ~9 papers on the left edge, but most people who work at universities are somewhere along the spectrum. A University president cannot be 100% pro reproducible, true science b/c no university meets this mark. All university presidents support fraud to some degree.
They blamed M- T-L for this “"It identified a culture where Tessier-Lavigne “tended to reward the ‘winners’ (that is, postdocs who could generate favorable results) and marginalize or diminish the ‘losers’ (that is, postdocs who were unable or struggled to generate such data).”" BUT EVERYONE DOES THIS. Of course, all lab people reward the people who work long hours and give them what they want. The hiring process rewards it too. If you work hard, and are smart, but don’t generate some bullshit finding, then enjoy your job outside of academics. You will not succeed.
We have to investigate and punish people EQUALLY. Someone asked me what I would do: I would do is investigate everyone equally. And then lump them into categories of errors and randomize to punishment or rehab strategies. Its not fair to single out Baselga for his COI failures or T-L for his fraudulent science when many others do the same and are not investigated. Investigate everyone, create some tiers, and randomize to punishment vs rehab. That’s fair and will actually help science. Now you just incentivize shitty scientists to not rise too high in the ranks or put a flag on their back.
Most administrators are still not useful; Most science is still wrong. The systemic issues are entirely unaddressed. 20 years after acknowledging the reproducibility crisis, we still haven't addressed it. Recently we submitted a reanalysis to a New England journal paper and they rejected it. It overturns the central finding that the primary analysis. The entire community does not want to know the truth. They're more concerned with their reputation, as MTL appears to be.
Who paid for this report? How can anyone justify the likely millions in spending this 95 page K-E report cost? We all have to work harder getting grants & indirects to fund the investigations into very select e.g. of research fraud— the whole system is insane.
Few more thoughts
Are university presidents role models? I don’t think any bureaucrat could ever be. They are primarily faceless entities who are meant to raise capital from donors. As far as I can tell he was good at that. Even Carmen from USC was good at that ;). Inside joke. It's not clear to me that they even need to be researchers to start.
Ultimately, I am not sure punishing him serves any broader purpose. Science and administration is just as flawed as before. That's the real tragedy.