Does This Michigan Tech Prof Use Wikipedia to Attack Others and Self-Promote?

Wikipedia as a weapon

Wikipedia as a weapon, and a tool.

Here’s the story of a professor at Michigan Technological University who appears to be very active on Wikipedia. He apparently tried to get the article about me deleted, and there is some evidence that he (or somebody) uses Wikipedia to promote his published articles.  He is the subject of a Wikipedia investigation.

This busy guy is Joshua Pearce, an associate professor of Materials Science and Engineering and of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He appears to be another open-access / open-source zealot and apparently knows how to use Wikipedia to his advantage.

So, someone — apparently him — nominated the article about me for deletion. Nothing wrong with that — anyone in the world can make such a nomination, and Wikipedia has an open process for dealing with such nominations. In this case, the nomination was dealt with quickly — in a matter of hours in fact — with the encyclopedia concluding: “The result was speedy keep. No argument presented for deletion.”

The nomination was started by a guy using the handle “Gihiw” on Wikipedia. On the nomination page, there is a statement about this Wikipedia editor. It says:

Gihiw (talkcontribs) has made few or no other edits outside this topic.

This account has now been blocked by Wikipedia. Now there’s another page on Wikipedia called “Wikipedia:Conflict of interest/Noticeboard.” On that page, there is a section about Joshua Pearce. It says:

J. M. Pearce [edit]

While cleaning up citations to predatory journals I found a number of citations to Joshua Pearce (Pearce, JM). Other references in the same articles were also tot he same author, in different journals. I went through some histories and found that in each case the reference was added by a single-purpose account. I suspect there are a lot of them, here’s a brief sample:

I understand that Pearce is an authority, but this is stretching credulity: every single article I find with citations to his work, the citations were added by accounts that appear only to edit articles where he is cited, and which usually add those citations themselves.

This will take a while to check through and clean up. Guy (Help!) 17:01, 30 August 2016 (UTC)

Note that one of the Wikipedia editor names attributed here to Pearce is Gihiw, the account that nominated my article for deletion. So, is Dr. Pearce the person who nominated my article for deletion?

There is another page on Wikipedia with a section on “Citation spamming” that mentions Pearce. It says, ” Multiple additions of citations to the same author from predatory and other journals, by multiple editors with no history other than adding that material (i.e. probable citation spamming)”

The evidence.

The evidence.

Here we see that someone on Wikipedia suspects that a single Wikipedia editor is using seven accounts to add citations to Pearce’s published work. Is it Pearce himself?

Also, why would Pearce want to nominate my article for deletion? Perhaps his motivation lies in the fact that he has published in journals I have listed as predatory — here’s an example:

Pay to publish

Pay to publish

Pearce has published in the journal Modern Economy, from the China-based publisher Scientific Research Publishing (SCIRP). This publisher is on my list, and I’ve blogged about the pseudo-science it has proudly published, without retraction, including an article that describes sentient civilizations living on the planet Mars.

This publisher is perfect for Pearce, and SCIRP published his sole-authored article (written under his real name) “Quantifying the Value of Open Source Hard-ware [sic] Development” last year. Note that SCIRP’s copyediting is so poor that they use an obsolete spelling of the word hardware.


So, the evidence points to the conclusion that a professor at Michigan Tech who, seemingly unhappy with my listing as predatory the bogus publisher he uses to publish his articles in, nominates the Wikipedia article about me for deletion.

At least one person on Wikipedia is investigating several apparent sock puppet accounts that engage in “citation spamming” to the benefit of Pearce, adding citations to his work (from both legitimate and predatory journals) to Wikipedia articles.

14 Responses to Does This Michigan Tech Prof Use Wikipedia to Attack Others and Self-Promote?

  1. TBOU says:

    There are quite a few like him on Wikipedia. One I saw a long time ago was this guy. The publications don’t seem that notable (many assistant professors of any discipline have similar records) and the open science advocacy seems minimal and not that grand.

  2. I find Jeffrey Beall to be reliable and spot-on.
    I just tweeted a message concerning this attack on his credibility.
    I suggest all those who rely on Dr. Beall do the same and perhaps he will receive well-deserved praise.

  3. caly says:

    Maybe its a publish or perish thing. If he has lots of articles and lots of citations, maybe his pay is higher or something. If you really care about his ethics I’d let his department chair or someone know.

  4. Krishnamurthy Bhat says:

    An associate professor of Materials Science and Engineering and of Electrical and Computer Engineering, publishing in “Modern Economy” it self speaks volumes about the research credibility of the individual.

    • CN says:

      I would not say that that in itself says anything about his credibility. Open source 3-D printable stuff has been a pretty hot topic from both the engineering and economic perspectives. It’s the grandeur and all this Wiki stuff…

      • Bill Williams says:

        Agreed – it is not unknown for scholars in technical areas to also publish in entrepreneurial/economic journals.

        The grandeur is, of course, another matter entirely,

  5. Joshua Pearce says:

    Dear Dr. Beall,
    A colleague I respect spoke highly of you and sent me your blog post. Accusations on this blog based on anonymous Wikipedia editors falls into the same trap I am accused of (i.e. they are as groundless as deleting your page) – I respectfully ask that you remove them because from my perspective this looks a lot like a witch hunt using Wikipedia sock puppets. The charges are serious enough I felt the need to respond formally.
    As you know I am a proponent of open source hardware – which must have struck a nerve somewhere for me to be a target of such a weird campaign. It is particularly interesting that this came out the day after I released public comment on Europe’s open access policy.
    I have over 200 peer-reviewed articles that have been cited in the peer-reviewed literature over 5000 times. Most are sci-tech, but a few are policy related. A few times a year something our lab does makes the news – so it does not seem abnormal that some of them are used by Wikipedia. As I told you earlier I had ceased trying to help Wikipedia many years ago as for me it was a big waste of time. (See my obliterated article explaining the concept of “fill factor” as evidence). Note: this also means I am familiar enough with Wikipedia to know that attempting to delete your page would be pointless unless I was willing to spend hours defending the claims. Why would I bother doing that unless I was a moron?
    To the best of my knowledge only one of my articles has been published in any journal on your list. The article was about calculating the value of open hardware. It was a follow up to an earlier article I published in Science.
    It definitely went through peer-review as I remember having to add more depth to the core example for revision. I believe it is technically sound – although the copy editing is messed up. It showed that the value created developing open hardware easily overcomes the investment. It said: “The inescapable conclusion of this study is that FOSH development should be funded by organizations interested in maximizing return on public investments particularly in technologies associated with science, medicine and education. ”
    This conclusion has very serious repercussions for public funding of sci-tech in the U.S. (and public access to it for all uses) and I am sure makes some people angry. That said, if you are aware of actual flaws in the math or logic – please let me know immediately.
    Due to the obvious potential for accusations of hypocrisy I wanted it in an open access journal — not a lot of good choices is this new field at the time. I am personally not happy with that particular publishing experience (non native English speaking copy editing) – I have also had poor experiences with the top traditional publishers.
    I have no idea what the actual goals of the people/person was in messing with your account and smearing me. If you disagree with anything I have actually written (you can tell because I sign it) I am happy to debate – although I prefer it in some sort of legitimate neutral forum rather than blogs or Wikipedia talk pages where anyone can say anything.
    Joshua Pearce

    • James Deakin says:

      A very courteous and measured response to what I must say feels like a rather unwarranted and deeply personal attack. I feel the somewhat contrived interpretation of the evidence presented in the original blog post does not justify what reads to be a somewhat mean-spirited commentary. I would be interested to read the author’s response to this post.

  6. Tunke says:

    EconomistfromtheFuture doesn’t seem to cite Pearce anywhere in their edits. They do cite S Greenstein a large number of times and as their IP address geolocates to Cambridge, MT I’d suspect that they’re Shane Greenstein not Joshua Pearce.

  7. Christine says:

    Thank you for this wonderful blog!

  8. Adam Jenkins says:

    I’ve been on Wikipedia for a long time now, and yes, this is a problem. However, there’s nothing in this case that would make me conclude that Pearce was behind it – of the accounts listed, two clearly had nothing to do with him, and the others can easily be explained given the likelihood of Pearce being referenced on those topics. There’s no investigation on Wikipedia – just a single person raising concerns, and no one finding anything to follow up.

    In regards to your biography being nominated for deletion, that has a much more typical reason behind it. The intention was not to target you, but it appears to be retaliation against another editor on Wikipedia. Sadly, this is not particularly unusual.

    • MC says:

      Tend to agree. I have spent time editing on Wikipedia as well (still can’t believe my self-inclusion under “Bash Bros” was deleted) and I think you’re right. I usually side with Beall, but I don’t see the “zealousness” for open access from this guy.

  9. Heysueus christo says:

    My my is little ol’ Joshie giving you an issue? Lol this guy is a clown. Problem is all these academic types can’t tell because most have never actually had to work for a living. Checked out what he’s famous the for (3D printing, recyclebot, extrusion pretty much) he’s acting like he’s on the cutting edge of technology and this is all new stuff. First off the plastic extruder has been around since the 60’s so we got lots of info about processes and technology. Second this grand environmental idea of recycling waste plastics for filament is garbage. Different polymers (plastics) have different melt temperatures, the screw in the machine is not sectioned (feed, transition, and metering sections) there is no mixing pins, second flight or even screen pack to give backpressure. He’s teaching kids stone age methods and telling them they are ready for the world, it’s a nice experiment to teach foundations but this is not progress. No one should be credited with an open source license, extrusion is older than the idea of the open license. All polymer processing uses extrusion. Injection moulding, blow moulding, 3d printing even, they all have an extruder component. You are in Colorado, go talk to someone at show them this guy’s work it will give them a good laugh. Peer review is useless if all the peers are morons… we should hold less faith in the paper people own and more in the logic of their ideas

  10. Heysueus christo says:

    Better yet since you are a librarian look up this guy and this book. Author: Rauwendaal, C. Copyright:2014 ISBN:9781569905166 Hardcover:934 pages. He’s in California very smart guy, tops in the industry.

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