Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Only 4 citations?

The University of Hong Kong’s council voted down the appointment of Prof. Johannes Chan as pro-vice-chancellor.  This is not surprising, with so many pro-establishment types appointed to the council.  Still, the reasons cited to turn him down, rejecting the recommendation of the search committee, are laughable if the matter is not so serious.  

Apparently, if I understand correctly, a Mr. L commented that Prof. Chan’s publications had been searched for only 4 times.  It is rather unusual for the number of searches to be used as a measurement of one’s academic achievements.  Perhaps he had meant citations?  Either way, 4 is a pitifully small number, if it were true.  

But, wait!  Someone has pointed out that the number of citations of Prof. Chan’s publications was at least 400+.  It is actually quite easy to verify it using online tools such as Google Scholar.  So, what is going on?  Did Mr. L tell a bold faced lie?  I did a quick check, and 400+ sounds much more plausible.  

Someone pointed out that if you type Prof. Chan’s full name in a specific way into a specific search engine, you can come up with a citation count of 4.

In fact, even very junior scholars know that an author’s name can appear in a citation in many ways.  To come up with an accurate count of citations you have to try many combinations, and then to weed out duplicates and other people with the same name.  

It appears that Mr. L is probably not very good at finding citations.  That in itself is not a sin.  Unless, however, when you are judging a professor’s academic credentials based on such erroneous information.   Then it is serious.  Making such a juvenile academic mistake should disqualify him from judging Prof. Chan’s academic credentials.  

Many of the other negative comments are equally laughable.  If this is the way the University of Hong Kong is run, it does not bode well for the university.  By the way, who appointed these people?  

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