The problems at SUT are not unique. They are likely to be a result of Drifting Goals across the whole university system

Dr Nazari (ex-lecturer at Swinburne University) is a prolific publisher, listed as an author on 29 papers so far this year.

That’s nearly 3 a month. One every 10 days.

Any academic would tell you that this is well-nigh impossible if the work is all original. Someone at Swinburne must have been asleep at the wheel.

However, the guy was raking in millions of dollars in ARC research funding, so why strangle the golden goose.

However, The Age reports: Dr Ali Nazari from Swinburne’s School of Engineering has had dozens of papers retracted by scientific journals this year over concerns about duplication of data

This problem is perfectly explained by the Systems Archetype entitled “Drifting Goals”

Dr Nazari had a long and superficially impressive publication record with an appointment to attract ARC funding.. But it would appear that no one was reading or scrutinising his publications. Why not?

Another systems archetype explains this. It’s called Success to the Successful.

In this case, Dr Nazari is Jane, because he is successful in getting external grants, he gets internal support for his external applications at the expense of other internal applicants and so the system supports him and he is continually successful

So the story goes like this: this man has lots of publications. Albeit in Iran. Let’s appoint him. He has lots of publications, albeit in Iranian journals, lets give him a research grant.

He’s had lots of research grants in the past, let’s give him more research grants in the future.

One predictor of success in gaining ARC research grants appears to be your success in gaining research grants in the past. Classic Success to the Successful systemic behaviour.

This little story is to demonstrate how the system can Generate its own behaviour, probably quite unintentionally, and produce quite undesirable behaviours.

The problem with the archetype Drifting GoalsIn the university system is that it produces increasingly low quality research across the whole system and academics are encouraged to produce large volumes of very poor research.

The problem with this is that as the volume grows the difficulty in monitoring the quality increases. Who’s going to read all the stuff, particularly when everybody’s flat out trying to produce their own mountain of rubbish.

Part of the problem is the proliferation of online journals. What academic does not receive regular solicitations to be on editorial boards and to submit papers to journals?

A possible answer would be for rigourous internal reviews before academics are allowed to submit to external journals and perhaps limitations on the number of papers that academics are allowed to publish each year.

Certainly, any Head of Department who has an academic who has published 29 papers in 10 months should be asking some questions.

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