‘Phantom’ book discovered in Queen’s research portal

Finding at Queen’s University Belfast follows criticism of pro vice-chancellor for citing an unpublished work

June 26, 2014

Source: Alamy

Self-authored: Queen’s University Belfast said that academics are responsible for the accuracy of their bibliographies

Queen’s University Belfast is to investigate references in its research portal to an apparently non-existent book said to be co-edited by a pro vice-chancellor who was censured last year for citing a book of his that had never been published.

The research portal, known as Pure, contains a reference to a book chapter called “Personalised classroom learning” by Ron Smith, a lecturer in the university’s School of Education. It is supposedly contained in a book called Education for Inclusion and Diversity, which the reference says is edited by Dr Smith and Tony Gallagher, a pro vice-chancellor and professor of education at Queen’s.

According to the reference, the book was published by Pearson in 2012. However, Stephen Elliott, a retired healthcare researcher, contacted Times Higher Education to point out that no such book appears in the British Library’s catalogue.

Pearson did publish a book of the same name in 2008, but it is edited by two academics from the University of Queensland, and a spokesman for Pearson confirmed that the Queen’s academics had no involvement with it. The reference appears on the Pure page of Dr Smith but not that of Professor Gallagher. However, it comes up when Professor Gallagher’s name is entered into Pure’s search facility.

A spokesman for Queen’s confirmed that academics are responsible for the accuracy of their Pure bibliographies.

Professor Gallagher, who has been tipped as a possible successor to the retiring Richard Barnett as vice-chancellor of the University of Ulster, told THE: “I was unaware this citation was on our system. It was not on my Pure page as I never put it there. I have never cited it and was unaware it was being cited by anyone else.” Asked whether the book or chapter existed, he said: “I have no idea about the status of the claimed chapter or book.”

Dr Smith did not respond to a request for comment.

In a statement, Queen’s says: “The university has in place a robust, integrated research governance framework and individual members of research staff are required to comply with all relevant policies, including those that cover use of the research portal and wider conduct and integrity in research. Any matters brought to the university’s attention…will be addressed in line with our approved policies.”

Last year, THE revealed that Professor Gallagher and Alan Smith, Unesco chair in pluralism, human rights and democracy at the University of Ulster, had included in an influential 2000 report on selective education a reference to a book they had supposedly co-edited but that did not actually exist.

In a letter sent last July to Robert McCartney, a retired QC and former MP who first raised the issue, Queen’s then vice-chancellor, Sir Peter Gregson, said that the academics had intended to publish the book, and that the paper had always been available from them “upon request”. But he accepted that the references to it were “inappropriate” in the absence of “the qualifier ‘in preparation’ ” and said that he had “formally addressed this matter with Professor Gallagher”.

paul.jump@tsleducation.com

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