This Academic Life
  Peer reviews
Peer reviewsLike most academic fields, publications in my area are driven by the bizarre process of peer review. "Bizarre" because in reviewing a manuscript for publication there are always concerns at play that are not reducible to the quality of the argument in the piece being considered. Do we really need another article alleging X? How hard should I press in my reviewer comments to have the author adopt a view of issues like the agent-structure problem that is closer to my own (even if I think that my view on this is better than than the view held by other theorists)? Or -- and here's the really important dilemma -- if the article is okay, decent even, and happens to adopt a position quite close to my own, how much should I temper my criticisms in order to see it published?

Anyone who pretends that these considerations don't cross their mind when they are reviewing manuscripts is lying. Journals play a gatekeeping function and shape the discourse of the discipline/field in profound ways. Serving as a peer reviewer for a journal places one in the position of trying to shape how that influence is exercised, which means both maintaining a certain standard of quality and trying to craft one's reviewer comments in such a way that the field is shaped in a desirable manner. of course, this also means that whether or not a piece gets published depends to a large extent on precisely who reviews it.

And the great irony is that this kind of crapshoot determines pay raises, tenure status, prestige, and the like. So much for presuppositionless "objectivity."

[Posted with ecto]

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"Academia als Beruf," or, an occasional record of the various aspects of my life as an academic. Written by "21stCWeber," an arrogant handle I know…but I must confess that I do want to be Weber when and if I grow up :-)



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