It has been put into question whether it can be verified that such a letter was actually sent to the MIT Press director. Here is the screenshot of the email sent from MIT Press director Dr. Amy Brand, confirming that indeed such a letter exists and was sent to MIT Press as acknowledged by herself as proof of reliable source. The email can be confirmed with Dr. Amy Brand too, as we also did.
It has come to our knowledge that it was reported to the editor of the MIT Press the misconduct of the following researchers: Mario Siqueiros, Tom Froese and Carlos Gershenson, who have misled the scientific community by claiming to hold higher-ranking titles that they do not hold.
The story has also prompted a heated debate in Wikipedia:
Here the letter sent to us:
To the Editors and Director of the MIT Press (Dr. Amy Brand):
We want to report grave misconduct of at least 2 of your recent Proceeding editors:
That is Carlos Gershenson and Tom Froese, who have assigned themselves the titles of “Research Professor” and “Associate Professor” respectively (for your publication and elsewhere). You can contrast this, to one of the other editors (Eduardo Izquierdo) who *does hold* an Assistant Professorship at Indiana University.
Froese is an entry level researcher at the National University of Mexico (UNAM) and in no way can be considered an Associate Professor nor has he been given the title by any authority, neither local (UNAM) or international. Gershenson is a tenured researcher and has been working for UNAM for a few more years than Dr. Froese but he remains at an entry position and can at most claim to be a research lecturer if he wanted to find a possible equivalent title in the American system. J. Mario Siqueiros, does not hold either the claimed title in your publication, yet we believe he had to follow his colleagues that have the same title as Siqueiros, and thus he was forced to use the misleading title as Gershenson and Froese did to match their self-proclaimed titles.
In summary, none of these researchers hold the positions they claim and that they have unlawfully been purporting. They are neither in paper or ‘de facto’ more than a postdoc or a research fellow (for the case of Froese), and an assistant professor (Gershenson).
These researchers are being considered to be internally processed for having gravely incurred in the offense of usurpation of titles and of scientific misconduct.
We look forward to the necessary correction in the introduction of the editors in the Proceedings published by MIT Press (and elsewhere).
Drs. Levy, and A.Bray on behalf of a group of concerned colleagues.
We have verified whether these individuals are entitled to use the titles they claim to hold, with multiple reliable independent sources all strongly responding in the negative (colleagues of these individuals and local authorities). Information will be released upon request, but we are awaiting for the said individuals to act in good faith before releasing any further information that can make greater damage to all parties, the individuals and those testifying included.
In the staff webpage of their institutions (not their own webpages where they use the allegedly misleading titles, see below) they appear as ‘investigadores’ (literally ‘researchers’).
According to the official sources, that provided a screenshot of Tom Froese’s staff official listing at UNAM (image above), he is an “Investigador Asociado” literally meaning “Research Associate”.
Tom Froese, however, has decided to drop “Researcher” and replace it by “Professor” (see below, as of July 15, 2016) to call himself an Associated Professor. Moreover, he is listed officially (above) with level “C”, which is a junior research position level. But he decided otherwise, similarly to Gershenson’s and Siqueiros’s cases.
Apparently, they use their self-assigned titles (promoted by themselves), to mislead the scientific community, here is one of the many offending uses in an official publication by the MIT Press:
According to another source, Dr Gershenson has used this self-promoting platform to propel himself to get invitations from other institutions and perform other activities thereby piling on more apparent titles to his already quite ornamental CV based on embellished positions without any context, in what appears a very chirurgical, planned approach to build an artificial career.
To defend themselves (reading the Wikipedia discussion) it seems they claim that their positions are of similar level to those of professors at their home institution, but there, they unscrupulously use the ambiguity of the translation of the word ‘profesor’ in Spanish which is used for any teacher, even from primary school, and obviously from level A to C, tenured or not, full-time. Interestingly, they are neither professors (as taken in Spanish for teachers) nor professors in the English-speaking sense. But more important, these researchers have entry-level positions yet they present themselves as ‘Professors’ in the English-speaking sense. By no means they are allowed to use the title in the English sense which is the sense in which they are using it and they are very aware of it. Their strategy has been to switch back and forth between language ambiguities and obscure explanations. To be clear, the title of Professor in any of its forms (e.g. as in “Research Professor”) is reserved for the highest ranking in the academic ladder and “Associate professor” is the second highest.
By conducting themselves in such a way, they are misleading the community for their own purposes. Gershenson and Froese, having had international experience, clearly know the implications of their actions and are therefore willfully acting in what cannot constitute but clear misconduct. People work hard for years to earn those titles only to see unscrupulous researchers self-proclaiming their titles for themselves, something that should be strongly condemned and even prosecuted if failing to rectify.
Update (July 15, 2016):
Two days after this information was published we received a table produced by colleagues of Gershenson, Froese and Siqueiros at UNAM indicating their actual versus their claimed academic titles, from lower to higher level (with the individual actual titles as of 15, July 2016) [We corrected this version a few weeks later from information by other of the suspects colleagues, Prof. Miramontes]:
| Spanish title (as used at UNAM)
|| Possible equivalency as in English-speaking countries
|Investigador Asociado A
||Postdoctoral Research Associate
||Entry-level, tenure-track or not
|Investigador Asociado B
||Senior Research Associate
||tenure-track or not
|Investigador Asociado C (Froese’s and Siqueiros’ actual positions)
||tenure-track or not
|Investigador Titular A
(Gershenson’s actual position)
|Research Lecturer, Senior Researcher or Assistant Professor
|Investigador Titular B
||Associate Professor, Senior Lecturer or Reader (Froese’s and Siqueiros’ self-assigned positions)
|Investigador Titular C
||(Research) Professor (Gershenson’s self-assigned position)
Clearly these 3 Mexican researchers are purporting titles well above their actual ones, as reported by their own colleagues at their home institutions, thereby clearly misleading the scientific community and disappointing their own colleagues at similar or above levels who are honest with their titles or have earned them after years of hard work.
Update (July 26, 2016):
We are happy to report that, even though that is quite a hell of a new title for a research associate, Tom Froese
has taken the right direction in no longer advancing himself as an Associate Professor (several positions above his actual), but as a “tenure-track faculty member”.
Unfortunately this has not yet happened in other places, including the Proceedings of the MIT
from where all this originated. We hope they will ask MIT Press to add an erratum for the 3 Mexican researchers purporting fake titles. Needless to say, Dr. Gershenson continues introducing himself as a ‘research professor
‘ (sometimes even Research Professor
in capitals, see below), hence effectively still misleading the community with regards to his seniority, rather than, at most, introducing himself as an assistant professor
in agreement with his position at UNAM; or if he wishes so badly, as a research assistant professor.
Maybe all this abuse, eager self-promotion, orchestrated titles and inflated bold claims about leading effectively non-existent labs by both Froese and Gershenson, are a compensation strategy for whatever they think may be wrong with their actual titles. A big question mark. Compare Gershenson’s self-assigned title with an actual Research Professor Jim Hartle from UCSB
Carlos Gershenson CV displaying his self-assigned position unrelated to his actual position:
In fact, Dr. Gershenson does not to appear on the staff webpage of his institution (IIMAS directory
as of August 2016), so one may conclude that either he does not belong to the institute he claims or he has managed to conceal his actual position by removing any information from official sources, there is still the possibility that it is just a webpage mistake but it is difficult to believe in this context. Dr. Gershenson’s actual position has, however, been verified with independent sources, and Dr. Gershenson has never denied the claims in this and other reports concerning his official title versus his self-assigned (alleged fake) title. He has also refused to answer any questioning, unlike Dr. Froese who has responded and acted accordingly, and indirectly endorsed the issue on both Froese and Gershenson.
Update (September 28, 2016):
We have received answers from the MIT Press and ISAL (the institution responsible for the special issue published by the MIT Press). The answer reads that MIT Press decides not to add an erratum at this time based on what apparently was ISAL’s request to take no further action. We reproduce below the exchange with ISAL. While we understand that is not in ISAL’s own interest to point out that people so closely associated to ISAL, Froese and Gershenson, have committed such a serious scientific misconduct, we find their position very dangerous as it opens a pandora box for non-English speaking countries to choose whatever titles they may want in English-speaking learned societies such as ISAL thereby actively or inactively (by inaction) allowing, and even promoting, scientific misconduct (even in the face of a publicly acknowledged Froese revealing he has self-interpreting himself c.f. below). Here is ISAL’s answer shared with us:
The ISAL board has discussed this matter: While it is important for researchers to accurately represent their credentials as assigned by their institution, there is much variation in the use of titles across countries, and even across universities within a country. Therefore we honor each university’s decision on which titles and translations are allowable. In this case, it is UNAM, not ISAL or MIT Press, that would need to claim wrongdoing and we would abide by any such decision. According to our investigations, UNAM is currently developing an official policy on title translations that should settle this question.
Given that is is unlikely, nor in their own interest either, and certainly unlikely that non-English speaking universities (often highly bureaucratic) such as UNAM will promptly react or answer to these issues let alone come up with an ‘official’ equivalence table, ISAL’s answer cannot be considered but permissive. So apparently ISAL is unable to point out crystal-clear wrongdoing by itself and stand by what it is right.
The answer sent to ISAL reads:
However, we do recognize it as an answer unlike the MIT Press reply.
Let us kindly explain why we find ISAL’s answer highly disappointing and even dangerous, and our reasons to hold our position regarding this issue in 6 clear points:
- Under ISAL’s logic, any researcher from a non-English speaking
country can make up their title in English as long as there are no official translation rules from their own university, rather than only allowing them to use their non-English titles if there is no such official rules.
- Both Froese and Gershenson know exactly what they are doing and how they are misleading the community with titles that suggest much higher seniority. No other researchers with the same levels in Mexico would even dare to introduce themselves in such a way.
- This is not a matter of translation or whether a university has
allowed such a translation or not, UNAM has NOT allowed such a translation so that should be enough not to let them use English titles that do not correspond to their seniority nor can be taken as translations.
- The titles are written in English, so they have to abide to their English meanings. None of those titles mean entry positions. In summary, Froese and Gershenson are not acting bona fide, and we think it is wrong not to point it out.
- Of course we are trying UNAM to take action, but that does not mean said researchers are not doing wrong as long as UNAM does not say anything. As it happens, in most universities this will take a long time if it is ever resolved by UNAM itself. If such an official translation from UNAM ever comes, it will definitely not be Associate Professor for Froese and not Research Professor for Carlos Gershenson as it is today.
- Your position means you would allow a ‘Maître de conférences’ to be called himself a ‘Reader’ or even an ‘Emeritus Professor’ against any common sense because, as you may known, a Maître de conférences just as an ‘Investigador Asociado C’ (Froese’s official title), is an entry-level position and thus IT CANNOT correspond to a Reader (or Senior Lecturer, or Associate Professor) position (Froese’s claimed title) or to Professor (Gershenson’s claimed title).
Unfortunately, you are not making these researchers or the community any favor, on the contrary, to the community in general you are endorsing misleading conduct if not misconduct itself by dodging the real issue.
Update (September 24, 2016):
Another colleague of Froese and Gershenson has let us know that the table we published before had the letters reversed, something that mistakenly made appear Froese self-assigned position to be 4 above its actual level when in fact it is only 2, we have amended the issue and it is now correct. Pedro Miramontes also pointed out that “It is good to openly discuss putative cases of scientific misconduct. I think that everybody would agree that it is a serious and sensitive matter and therefore the discussion should rely on the most transparent information possible”. He also pointed out that Froese cannot be considered a postdoc. As we have reported before based on information given to us by other colleagues of Froese and Gershenson, and the ways things work in the rest of the world (for good or for bad), we believe that Froese (and he mentions it in his answer to this letter below) is not longer a postdoc at UNAM (he was one only a couple of years ago), but given that he has not yet reached tenure position, nor Gershenson’s entry-level tenure position as Research Lecturer or Assistant Professor (Gershenson’s actual position), Froese’s current position may be seen as a senior postdoctoral or research position in the rest of the world and definitely not as an Associate Professor as he introduces himself. As Prof. Miramontes said himself in his comment to us: “Make your own judgements”. We have reiterated that these researchers are each at entry positions (one tenure track and one tenured), despite their bold claims and titles.
We want also to point out that, unlike Miramontes, other colleagues of Froese and Gershenson have asked us to remain anonymous for no other reason but out of fear of academic retaliation from Gershenson and Froese who apparently have inserted themselves in positions of power exercising control, no doubt helped by their deceiving actions, such as their use of titles and manipulation of media, and as said by these colleagues they have taken decisions in the past based on other reasons than scientific ones against their own colleagues.
It is also worth mentioning that when these colleagues of Froese and Gershenson, that are reporting what they think is wrong, were asked if they had thought it thoroughly if they were possibly inflicting unnecessarily damage to Froese and Gershenson’s reputations by making all this public, they replied they had thought it thoroughly and it was of high concern but they agreed that it was only Froese and Gershenson who were damaging their own reputation by their actions and by their refusal to take measures to amend the publications and other places (e.g. Gershenson’s inflated CV) where they have purported false positions, and instead have chosen to try to justify it by any unreasonable means. They regret it has come to this.
Update (September 27, 2016):
We have received confirmation from Prof. Miramontes
at UNAM, that Tom Froese does not hold or should claim a position of Associate Professor and that should at most be considered an Assistant Professor. Prof. Miramontes also had some comments about the fear of retaliation from Froese and Gershenson. We reproduce excerpts of his message sent to us and of our reply to his kind message.
According to Prof. Miramontes:
“It is hard, if not impossible, to make a linear one-to-one equivalence of academic ranks but I would say that Gershenson is not a Full Professor. Whether he deserves to be punished or not, it is not of my interest to judge. Frose [sic] would be an Assistant Professor. He is respected as a hard and serious worker.”
[He might be so. There are many hard and serious workers though, particularly among postdocs. Unfortunately, and unlike Froese, they do not become Associate Professors because they wish or believe to be so]
Prof. Miramontes also stressed:
“It is preposterous to fear retaliation from Froese or Gershenson and therefore to keep the anonymity. The[y] are both young and they have by no means any political force to exert against their opponents.”
All comments in brackets added.
We thanked Prof. Miramontes kind message and we responded as follows:
1. It is clear how these researchers, no matter how young and junior, can retaliate. From simply making biased decisions at peer-reviewing to blocking people from being hired at UNAM. It has been pointed to us how Gershenson is involved in the opening of calls and decision making for postdoc positions at UNAM, this is how Froese got into UNAM in the first place. Froese and Gershenson were friends in their Masters study period in the UK looking at their CVs and from information by their own colleagues, one can connect the dots.
2. Clearly they are eager to climb ladders, by merit or not. Their actions do not longer grant them the benefit of doubt (that of being honest, at least academically). For some of their colleagues they have acted grossly dishonest by faking titles and inflating the impact of their activities. People concerned ignore whether they are or will be placed in positions of more power in the future, as they seem very keen to try. They look keen to amass power at all costs to the point of using false inflated titles.
3. We do not find the matter of anonymity of any relevance (but we are open to hear why you think it would help), Froese and Gershenson’s concerned colleagues are only denouncing wrong-doing based on facts (c.f. webpage screenshots above). We have been ready to amend any false or mistaken information given to us, as you have yourself experienced by how prompt we were at correcting our mistake concerning the reversion of the letter ordering in the academic rankings at UNAM. I can see how adding or releasing names may turn the debate about facts into a heated debate beyond facts. However, Froese and Gershenson colleagues have said they are prepared to go out of anonymity if that helps in any way. They do not think that they have anything to hide nor they think they are doing anything wrong.
4. Anonymity is a standard practice in journalism and even in academia (e.g. peer-reviewing), like it or not, precisely to avoid retaliation and to avoid a practice of science based on personal uncalled reciprocity rather than facts.
It is clear that Prof. Miramontes and other colleagues of Gershenson and Froese agree that these 3 Mexican researchers have not used their correct titles and that they have done so on purpose as they have enough international experience in English-speaking countries to know so, and because they have been told about their fault yet they refrain to do any amendments it is not longer bona fide. Thus is is clear they have falsely overstated their positions with the intention to mislead.
We do not know if they should be punished or not (we think they probably should, proportional to their fault no less no more, only to discourage others to do so again at UNAM or else, as we see that Froese and then Siqueiros followed Gershenson), but we think Gershenson and Froese’s colleagues are being reasonable and have only requested the false information to be amended (notice that in some countries such use of fake positions is unlawful and would lead to prosecution). And to ask them to show some restraint on this and other bold claims they make, bordering on falsehood, or crossing it like in this instance. Yet, only Froese has reacted and changed the description about himself on his personal webpage, not so everywhere else, nor Gershenson has come forward to recognize and amend what we think is a serious fault.
We understand how young people are under such pressure to sell themselves unlike their older counterparts that had apparently easier access to similar positions, but their colleagues simply think it is not only outrageous to mislead the community (pushing others to do the same, such as Mario Siqueiros at IIMAS too) but also incredibly unfair to their other Mexican colleagues that do not fake their titles yet they have not yet reached the positions that these other Mexican researchers are claiming to hold even when they are more senior than Froese and Gershenson themselves.
We are glad that Prof. Miramontes has publicly came forward and expressed his concern acknowledging that Froese’s title is at most Assistant Professor and not Associate Professor as he uses to introduce himself (c.f. the MIT Press Artificial Life journal) and that he is still not willing to amend; and that Prof. Miramontes also agrees that Gershenson has yet a long way to go to the top even though he uses the highest academic ranking for himself as full ’Professor’ (or ‘Research Professor’ for that matter).
In summary, neither Gershenson, Froese or Siqueiros have been awarded any of the titles they claim very high and loud to hold (c.f. MIT Press publication), webpages and CVs (c.f. Gershenson’s CV). The suggested possible English equivalent positions for Froese and Siqueiros as Senior Research Associates, or at most Assistant Professors (as suggested by Prof. Miramontes), and for Gershenson as a Research Lecturer or as an Assistant Professor (the only possible position to be at ‘a long way to the top’ as suggested also by Prof. Miramontes), are thus only suggestions of their actual (non)senior positions from their actual Spanish titles. This is in contrast to the claim by Froese to be an Associate Professor (c.f. MIT Press ALIFE/ISAL publication) and by Gershenson’s to be a full Research Professor (c.f. his current CV as of 10/02/16).
However, these three Mexican researchers are at different entry levels: Froese and Siqueiros are at a tenure-track entry level position at UNAM, Gershenson at a tenured entry level position (yet the distinction is only contractual and not of academic interest). Moreover, if Gershenson is ‘still a long way to the top’ (as indicated by Prof. Miramontes), then he clearly cannot be an Associate Professor (or Reader or Senior Lecturer) because he would be only one level below and not ‘a long way’ from Professor. Gershenson cannot be thus but at most an Assistant Professor (or Lecturer, or Research Lecturer). However, this also would mean that Froese cannot be considered an Assistant Professor himself, because Froese and Gershenson believe there is a strong hierarchy between them, almost a religious one between a master and his disciple. Then Froese cannot be but a Research Associate (which turns out to be the exact translation of his Spanish title!).
With these actions, purporting titles, Froese, Siqueiros and Gershenson mislead the community distorting and magnifying their achievements, with Gershenson even shaping and shaving his own Wikipedia article with a Wikipedia article only similar in length to some of the greatest scientists in history. Unfortunately, it seems these researchers need an urgent reality check before they do further damage, to others (e.g. their institutions, and other Mexican colleagues such as Siqueiros who was dragged by Gershenson and Froese’s ambitions to claim positions they do not have) and to themselves who have and are clearly loosing credibility because of their actions. We wish them success in their careers but this is not a good start nor the way to behave.
Update (October 7, 2016):
It was pointed out to us yet another case of abuse of titles by Gershenson and his colleagues. In Gershenson’s personal ‘lab’ he calls Froese and Siqueiros ‘Research Professors’, despite Froese and Siqueiros’ entry-level non-tenured positions at UNAM and the general agreement that Froese is a research associate (which turns out to be his Spanish academic title) or at most an Assistant Professor (as indicated by senior member at UNAM, Prof. Miramontes). Gershenson, Froese and Siqueiros are thus using yet another place to commit the spread academic misconduct that we have reported, misleading the research community and forcing their way in the academic ladder to get invitations and promote themselves in areas of higher ranking on the basis of pure trickery presenting themselves as senior highest ranking members of their institute and university.
Update (October 16, 2016):
We found that Tom Froese, in an act of honest self-contrition, recognized his controversial use of titles in a blog post on his own personal webpage.
We welcome that Froese has given steps in the right direction to amend this issue, although it has not yet been corrected in places such as the publication in the MIT Press special issue of the ALife conference that was first reported and which has been stubbornly remain incorrect with ISAL and the MIT Press itself hence endorsing academic misbehavior, or in the people listing of Gershenson’s ‘lab’ as recently reported. It seems clear that Froese (and Siqueiros) have been dragged by the behavior of Carlos Gershenson who has been quite dishonest in the way he presents himself and makes use of false titles and exaggerated positions and affiliations. We regret that Froese had not find the strength in the past to remove himself from the misleading ways of Gershenson and to oppose Gershenson in the way he behaves and with whom he has been very much aligned. We welcome thus Froese’s recognition of the issue and the first steps he has given to amend the wrongdoing. For this, we have changed the title of this post reporting academic misconduct as we had promised before as it is not of our interest to damage these researchers reputation more than what they have damaged them themselves, and only themselves. The issue is now mostly driven by Gershenson and the post is now mostly reporting Gershenson. However, we cannot yet let the case go for Froese or Gershenson because (1) Froese has not yet amended the places in which his controversial (rather wrong) title has been (mis)used and (2) Gershenson is not only far from making any amendments but seems determined to continue on his same misbehaving line.
P.s. It is not credible that Froese could have been naive, as he says in his blog post “Nothing could be further from my mind [to use the title of “Associate Professor” as motivated by self-aggrandizement]”. Froese has enough international experience to know what the level of seniority the title of “Associate Professor” officially brings with it, and he is obviously aware of his own position and level at UNAM (a non-tenure entry level position after having finished another postdoctoral position at UNAM). So, again, if Gershenson is at most an Assistant Professor (also as suggested by Prof. Miramontes as he is ‘a long way to the top’) as he is still in an entry level, even if tenured, it is clear that Froese is either a postdoc for international standards (all non-tenured no professorships levels are regarded as postdocs, no shame in it) or he is at most at the same level as Gershenson. However, people will always tend to find a excuse rather than simply apologize.
Disclaimer: This website DOES NOT intend to infringe personal damage and any mistake will be promptly amended. All individuals mentioned can express their voice and no censorship will be exerted. This entry will be deleted once actions are taken to amend the reported misconduct (at MIT Press and elsewhere, including the scientists own webpages, CVs, and so on).