“It is not the journal who has ranked either the scholars or the schools. The authors of the article did,” she maintains.
Griffin, who told PwC that “an undisclosed ghost author is a problem that would most likely lead to a retraction,” adheres to the view that the article is valid, even after publication of the PwC report in which Song admitted he may have written part of the article.
And whether the authors’ methodology was tailored to benefit Song and UMKC or not, it’s quite a stretch to call the article “thoroughly validated,” as Donnelly wrote, when one of the main beneficiaries has admitted he may have helped write it.
In fact, the interim managing director of the entrepreneurship institute took an extremely dim view of the JPIM article and its ranking, according to documents obtained by the Star through an open records request. “No one in the academic community gives the JPIM results any credibility,” Jeff Hornsby wrote in an Aug. 5 email to Donnelly. “Our continued defense continues to deteriorate our credibility and legitimacy.”
Hornsby sent his email to Donnelly nine days after the Star‘s investigation appeared in print. Yet, many months later, in spite of the revelations that Song was deeply involved in the development of the article, and has a history of providing misleading data for rankings, university and Bloch officials continue to claim the JPIM article and ranking are valid.
INCONSISTENCY IN CLAIMS
On Feb. 4, a Bloch professor of strategy and entrepreneurship issued to his colleagues a blistering 22-point attack on Song, the journal article and its authors, and the auditor and reviewers who found the article acceptable. The professor pointed out an inconsistency between the statement in the journal article that “this paper ranks 1718 innovation management scholars over a period of 20 years from 1991 to 2010,” ending in December of 2010, and the authors’ written assertion to PwC that their ranking article “was written and related research was completed before we arrived in UMKC (for the visiting scholarships) in August 2010,” five months before the end of the 20-year period in which the publication records were measured.
The prof writes that the inconsistency is a “smoking gun” suggesting Song was in a position to influence the authors’ work, and that the journal article should be retracted.
The prof also highlights for his colleagues Song’s acknowledgement to PwC that he had told a graduate student to publish a list of clubs on the university website – the clubs that Bloch entrepreneurship institute managing director John Norton told PwC never existed. The professor says the graduate student was made a “co-conspirator.”
“If we are to have any integrity, we must take it seriously when one of our students – the most vulnerable of our stakeholders – is being ‘used;’ the consultant’s report should have addressed this,” he wrote.
The university in the past dismissed this professor’s calls for an investigation into the rankings issue as the complaints of a disgruntled employee Song had passed over for promotion, the Star has reported.
LEAVING MIT AND STANFORD IN THE DUST
For Bloch, unranked by any major publications, even a spot in the much-maligned Princeton Review, and top marks for innovation management research in a specialty journal that put it ahead of MIT, Stanford, and INSEAD, provided a valuable opportunity for marketing, recruiting, and fundraising.
With regard to the Princeton Review ranking, Song is alleged to have orchestrated a multi-pronged deception. Bloch received a number of top-20 entrepreneurship rankings from the Princeton Review from 2011 to 2013, for both undergraduate and graduate programs.
Then Dean Teng-Kee Tan in 2011 had sent an email to Song and other staff saying school benefactor and H&R Block co-founder Henry Bloch “gets very upset when our rankings go down. We must do everything we can to increase it when we can by all means necessary.” Tan told PwC he was referring to rankings in the Princeton Review. The school has admitted flawed data was submitted to the Princeton Review in 2011, 2012, and 2013.
WHEN BAD DATA IS GOOD DATA
The Princeton Review’s survey to schools asked for “total formal enrollment” in a school’s entrepreneurship program. Song told PwC that any student taking a class in entrepreneurship, or enrolled in entrepreneurship institute’s e-scholar certificate program for would-be entrepreneurs, was a “formally enrolled student.” Institute managing director John Norton told PwC he had discussed the definition of an entrepreneurship student with Song and Tan, and expressed concerns to Song about sending “wrong” data to the Princeton Review, but Song insisted the information was acceptable.
Norton, the PwC audit says, reported that he “felt pressured by (Song) to do things that were improper in relation to PRB submissions. He did not defend his position for fear of job security as well as wanting to follow the former IEI Director’s vision for the Institute.” As managing director of the institute, Norton earns a $158,749 salary, according to university records.
Much of the wonky data flowed out of the e-scholar program created in 2009 by Song and Tan. The program was only for UMKC students at first, then was opened to the public in 2011. It’s intended to help entrepreneurs launch businesses, and now costs $500 for nine months. While the program issued certificates to only a few dozen students per year between 2011 and 2014, Song used it to feed misleading data to the Princeton Review, the PwC report indicates. Regarding the Princeton Review’s question seeking the percentage of formally enrolled entrepreneurship students that had launched a business since graduation, Song admitted to PwC that the school used only e-scholar students and left out all formally enrolled students. That way, the school could report that 100% of its students did startups. After all, the e-scholar program requires that participants create a business model and prove to a review committee that it will launch within a year of program completion.
A STUNNING RECORD OF NEW VENTURES
For its undergraduate Princeton Review surveys in 2011 through 2014, Bloch reported 100% of students had launched businesses since graduation, and said 100% of graduate students in 2012 through 2014 had done so. Song admitted to PwC that the school’s methodology for providing that data to the Princeton Review “may be flawed” as it was based only on e-scholar students and ignored formally enrolled undergraduate and graduate students.