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UNR replaces engineering dean


University of Nevada, Reno staff last week were told Engineering Dean Erick C. Jones was “unavailable” and Associate Dean Indira Chatterjee would assume the role of the college’s acting dean. No reason was provided for the staffing change, and UNR officials have refused to say whether Jones is on administrative leave or why he is absent from campus. 

The UNR Sagebrush was the first to report the story. 

UNR spokesperson Scott Walquist on Tuesday provided limited information on the staffing change. 

“Last week, Executive Vice President and Provost Jeff Thompson recommended, and President Brian Sandoval approved the appointment of Associate Dean of Engineering Indira Chatterjee as acting dean of the College of Engineering in the absence of Dean Erick Jones,” he confirmed. “We are unable to provide additional information as this is a confidential personnel matter.”

Jones is still listed as the dean of engineering on UNR’s website.

A source on campus said that Jones was still emailing some campus employees late last week, but administrators instructed employees not to respond to Jones and to forward emails sent by him to supervisors. 

In February, Jones was accused of research misconduct after statistician Andrew Gelman at Columbia University published a blog post calling out a number of Jones’ published research articles for being incoherent. The articles, many of which were co-authored by Jones’ son Erick C. Jones Jr., were published in a journal that the Joneses own. 

Although the articles in the journal are listed as being peer-reviewed, no peers are listed, and articles submitted to the publication are published within days of submission, allegedly after being reviewed by others. Peer review of scientific research normally takes months and as much as a year or more.

“The problem with the Jones et al. papers discussed here was that they are not just content-free but so bad, just unfathomably bad, enough so that the entire scenario is baffling,” Gelman wrote. 

After news of Jones’ academic articles broke locally, some students called for Jones to resign. He did not. However, university officials said they were investigating the matter. Research fraud is investigated through UNR’s Office of Research and Innovation and a process is outlined in the faculty handbook. 

Walquist refused to answer whether the investigation into Jones was ongoing or if any findings had been made. 

Jones’ wife, Felicia Jefferson was also implicated in the research misconduct. She is still listed as an associate professor in UNR’s biochemistry and molecular biology department. 

Kristen Hackbarth
Kristen Hackbarth
Kristen Hackbarth is a freelance editor and communications professional with more than 20 years’ experience working in marketing, public relations and communications in northern Nevada. Kristen graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in photography and minor in journalism and has a Master of Science in Management and Leadership. She also serves as director of communications for Nevada Cancer Coalition, a statewide nonprofit. Though she now lives in Atlanta, she is a Nevadan for life and uses her three-hour time advantage to get a jump on the morning’s news.