Article by controversial UT regent advisor found to contain errors

Melissa Ludwig

A provocative paper authored by a special research assistant to the University of Texas regents contains about two dozen errors, including quotes attributed to the wrong people, inaccurate citations and fuzzy data, according to an analysis by the San Antonio Express-News.

Written by Rick O'Donnell, a Colorado transplant and advocate of higher education reform, the paper's premise that the bulk of academic research in Texas produces "few tangible benefits" whipped up a firestorm of controversy over the past month as did his hiring at $200,000 a year.

O'Donnell wrote the paper, "Is Academic Research a Good Investment for Texas?" in 2008 for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative Austin think tank where he was an unpaid fellow.

David Guenthner, a foundation spokesman, claimed responsibility for the errors, saying staff merged several drafts of the document, jumbling the footnotes and leaving some out entirely.

O'Donnell concedes he did not carefully review the final product and said Thursday he is not sure how some mistakes made their way into the published version.

"I am a little flabbergasted," O'Donnell said. "I do my best to produce quality work. This is a production snafu."