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The $400K Professor At The Center Of The Bloch School Scandal

Michael Song was executive director of Bloch's entrepreneurship center when the false numbers were reported

Michael Song was executive director of Bloch’s entrepreneurship center when the false numbers were reported

Officials at the University of Missouri Bloch School of Management are scrambling to conjure up a silver lining around a dark cloud of scandal. While admitting the school submitted misleading data for rankings in the Princeton Review, officials are energetically touting another controversial ranking which they claim has been backed up by auditors’ reports.

And the professor at the center of both rankings debacles is still pulling in a $400,000 salary even after one school official claimed the prof pressured him “to do things that were improper” and the current dean of the business school said he could no longer trust the academic.

Professor Michael Song has been stripped of his position as director of Bloch’s Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation by Dave Donnelly, the current dean of the University of Missouri-Kansas City business school, who told auditors from Pricewaterhouse Coopers that he “could not trust” Song.

University databases show Song receiving a $398,894 salary for this academic year; $422,894 for 2013/14; $405,276 for 2012/13; and $382,834 for 2011/12. The salary is based on nine months of work per year.

The Princeton Review this week kicked Bloch out of four years of its rankings after the school submitted false data connected to entrepreneurship programming.

‘INFLATED STATISTICS’ IN THREE CATEGORIES

In a Feb. 4 letter to students, Donnelly admits that “flawed data had been submitted (in) 2011, 2012 and 2013 in three of 40 subject areas. The incorrect data included the number of student clubs, the number of mentoring programs and select enrollment numbers. Two members of the Bloch School faculty submitted inflated statistics in those three categories.”

However, Donnelly claims vindication for the school in another rankings issue involving Song. Song had been named the “world’s number one innovation” scholar in a 2012 journal article which also anointed UMKC the top innovation management university on the planet. “Despite challenges from critics, that study has been reviewed and upheld twice by independent experts in the field,” Donnelly wrote. “It has been thoroughly validated.”

That purported validation remains somewhat dubious. Although an independent review found the article’s methodology met “generally acceptable professional practices,” the reviewer ignored Song’s admission that he “may have” written some of it himself.

A Kansas City Star investigation had first raised doubts about the validity of the Journal of Product Innovation Management article, as it had been conducted by two visiting scholars to Bloch, and had received input from Song. However, an independent reviewer commissioned by the university found “no evidence . . . that (Song) influenced the research design of the article and his involvement including commenting on a draft of the article and introducing the authors and the article to the editor of the journal are standard procedures followed by many academics in assisting visiting foreign scholars submitting articles to U.S. academic journals.”

CHERRY PICKING FOR RANKINGS GLORY?

The Star suggested that the visiting scholars had framed their study – which was based on numbers of articles published in innovation-related publications – to reflect well on Song and UMKC, by cherry-picking journals and a time-frame that would maximize the article count of Song and other UMKC faculty.

Independent reviewer Robert Hisrich, an emeritus professor at the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Arizona, says in his report that it “would have been informative” if the article’s authors had revealed to the journal’s editors that they were visiting scholars at the school they named No. 1. But Hisrich concludes that “overall, the circumstances surrounding the submission, review and acceptance of the JPIM article and the methodology of the study were consistent with generally acceptable professional practices.”

Hisrich reports that he had assessed a Pricewaterhouse Coopers report on its investigation into the journal article, but he makes no mention of an admission by Song in the PwC report that Song “may have written parts related to the strategy portion of the paper.”

Song had admitted to Pricewaterhouse Coopers that he “was very involved in helping clarify the strategy portion of the rankings paper, particularly as it related to UMKC and UMKC’s strategy.”

Indeed, UMKC is the only school to receive significant coverage in the article’s strategy section. The article lists six schools, including Harvard, MIT, and Stanford, and states, “Capitalizing on their excellent overall university reputation, these universities have attracted faculty to advance their innovation management research.” Four other schools, including Northeastern and Temple universities, are mentioned in passing as having “done an excellent job in retaining top innovation management faculty for a long time.” UMKC receives the only detailed exposition on strategy. The article specifically mentions Song and gushes that “UMKC’s success provides a model for universities aspiring to create and foster excellence.”

NO ‘FATAL FLAW’ BUT HIDDEN HAND REVEALED

The PwC report notes that JPIM said it had three independent reviewers investigate the article and they found no “fatal flaw.”

The journal’s VP of publications, Abbie Griffin, says in an email to Poets&Quants that “the authors chose which methodology to use and multiple reviews of it have not found that it contains a fatal flaw.