You may be aware that some fraction of academic research is based entirely on fabricated data — a problem that I spotlight in my 2017 paper “Legal Liability for Data Fraud” — but how much of the popular college and university rankings of U.S. News & World Report is also based on fraud? (U.S. News & World Report publishes an annual set of rankings of colleges, professional schools, and graduate programs, and it even bills itself as a “leader in college, grad school, hospital, mutual fund, and car rankings” — see here, for example.)
Last spring, Moshe Porat, the disgraced former dean of Temple University’s Fox School of Business, became the first university administrator in North America to be criminally prosecuted for sending fake data to the editors of the U.S. News & World Report, and last week, he was finally convicted of wire fraud and conspiracy by a jury in Philadelphia. According to this report in the Philadelphia Inquirer, it took the jury less than an hour to conclude that Porat, along with two of his subordinates, were guilty of sending fake data about his school’s online MBA program to U.S. News.
The more important question, however, is, Who’s next? In other words, was Moshe Porat just one bad apple, or is he representative of a broader problem with U.S. News & World Report’s
ranking methods beauty contest? Either way, shouldn’t U.S. News itself be legally liable for publishing rankings based on fake data?