Predatory Publications by TRU Professor Pyne (Part 2: Meeting The Man)

(Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC)

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See the previous article on the infamous paper by Thompson Rivers University Economic Professor, Derek Pyne.

For a simplified version of the story, Professor Pyne published a paper in April 2017 titled “Predatory publications”. It was a look into the academic publishing, and how fake journals were popping up. Given university professors’ duty to “publish or perish”, these seemed to be a way out.

This is a topic that has been reluctantly addressed by universities before. However, this paper took more of an economic view of the subject — rewards and benefits from publishing in such journals.

The paper has not been well received by Thompson Rivers University, especially since it seemed to implicate members of the faculty. Relations between Professor Pyne and the school have gone downhill.

In September 2018, almost a year and a half later, Professor Pyne was suspended from TRU. He is now back at work. He claims that the paper was one reason, but not the only, for the suspension.

Currently, a complaint has been filed under Section 13 of the Labour Relations Code, claiming the Union violated Section 12. Here is the actual text from the Labour Relations Code (of BC)

Duty of fair representation
12 (1)
A trade union or council of trade unions must not act in a manner that is arbitrary, discriminatory or in bad faith
(a) in representing any of the employees in an appropriate bargaining unit, or
(b) in the referral of persons to employment whether or not the employees or persons are members of the trade union or a constituent union of the council of trade unions.

(2) It is not a violation of subsection (1) for a trade union to enter into an agreement under which
(a) an employer is permitted to hire by name certain trade union members,
(b) a hiring preference is provided to trade union members resident in a particular geographic area, or
(c) an employer is permitted to hire by name persons to be engaged to perform supervisory duties.

(3) An employers’ organization must not act in a manner that is arbitrary, discriminatory or in bad faith in representing any of the employers in the group appropriate for collective bargaining.

Procedure for fair representation complaint
13 (1) If a written complaint is made to the board that a trade union, council of trade unions or employers’ organization has contravened section 12, the following procedure must be followed:
(a) a panel of the board must determine whether or not it considers that the complaint discloses a case that the contravention has apparently occurred;
(b) if the panel considers that the complaint discloses sufficient evidence that the contravention has apparently occurred, it must
(i) serve a notice of the complaint on the trade union, council of trade unions or employers’ organization against which the complaint is made and invite a reply to the complaint from the trade union, council of trade unions or employers’ organization, and
(ii) dismiss the complaint or refer it to the board for a hearing.
(2) If the board is satisfied that the trade union, council of trade unions or employers’ organization contravened section 12, the board may make an order or direction referred to in section 14 (4) (a), (b) or (d).

Canuck Law meeting Professor Pyne

The actual interview occurred on Thursday, January 24 at the University in Kamloops, BC. Note: Questions were prepared, but the replies shown are summaries of what was said.

1/ What did you think would happen publishing this?
-It was a new angle on the publishing industry
-This hadn’t been done before
-Expected a higher amount of support for academic freedom and inquiry

2/ Any support from colleagues?
-Some privately do offer support
-No one wants to be public about it
-This is considered an attack on academic freedom

3/ What actually triggered the suspension?
-Collective agreement allows for feedback for candidates
-I exercised that right. University called it defamatory and accusatory

4/ Why the 16 month delay in the suspension? (April 2017-Sept 2018)
-It took time for the backlash to happen
-Reporting by the New York Times really hurt
-American media interviews were given
-Comments made in online forums
-Research comments

5/ Why isn’t the TRU faculty union helping?
-164 page complaint was filed
-Academic unions don’t work the same way private sector unions do
-Lack of understanding by the union in matters like this

6/ What do you see Labour Relations doing?
-Little. They have a very low success rate
-Since 2016 (records shown), 0 or 1 cases successful each year
-Most “successes” come from informal negotiation between parties

7/ What would you like Labour Relations to do?
-Order the union to file a grievance

8/ How can universities screen for “predatory journals”? What are the warning signs?
-Mailbox addresses (suites) given in address
-Journal no one has heard of before
-Very quick turnaround times
-Questionable, if any, peer review
-Questionable “Impact Factors Analysis”
-Real journal will provide abstract, fake will make you buy entire article, paywall
-There are 10,800 right now identified, another 955 suspected (all fields)

9/ Has this led to policy changes at TRU?
-Might have tipped people off as to what is happening?

10/ Was it difficult to get data for research?
-Time consuming
-Manually searching profiles
-Research Ethics not needed (since no face-to-face interviews)
-Google Scholar quick source (academic publications)
-Checking academic profiles also an option

11/ Does this hurt academia?
-It can lower the trust people have in experts and authority figures

12/ Broadly speaking, how does peer review work?
-You need an idea of which journals to submit to
-You submit your research
-You may have to redo large sections of your paper
-Editor of publication often orders revise & resubmit
-Editor will find referees with similar publications to review yours
-Referees are usually volunteers, it’s more of an honour
-It can easily take a year or two to get published