Report details 190,000 secret projects using pseudonyms and stereotypes to gain job applicants

In the first quarter of 2019, posts on the peer-reviewed science journal Omicron Prompt analyzed more than 8,500 responses to the Proton Beam Accelerator Science and Technology (PBST) graduate student survey from 2003 to 2014. The report identified 200 projects that were positive but conservative; 300 projects that used bias detectors; and 268 that employed affirmative action to boost candidate prospects. But the study also identified 290 projects that had come up with even more creative ways to avoid discrimination. One experiment even employed photography to determine how many blacks applied for a job.

In some cases, the techniques used by researchers were standard, including creating brochures and ads aimed at a “disparate but prospective” race. But many researchers in the report used pseudonyms in a bid to hide their identities. For example, there was an experiment in which participants were asked to identify imaginary photographs, and researchers used the identity-swapping techniques to ensure that participants were not banned from the next test. Other researchers used stereotypes about what candidates were likely to be motivated for a particular position. Researchers at Iowa State University found that by working with the humanities majors, some had benefited from the “non-legally protected tactics.” (Such tactics aren’t explicitly protected under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.) Researchers at Ohio State University deployed targeted ads to show students the work of minorities and send the message that they would be hired and promoted if they applied for that position.

To date, the research journal has taken no action against any of the researchers who took part in the report, but it seems likely that, in the future, the journal will investigate and go after those who are engaging in practices of questionable legality. And the results of the report mean that researchers can no longer run a regular salary scale through a complex series of calculations to hide their intentions from potential candidates.

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