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why is it bad to retract non-fraudulent and non-erroneous papers?

with 5 comments

It is bad to demand the retraction non-fraudulent papers. But why? I think the argument rests on three intuitions. First, there is a legal reason. When an editor and publisher accept a paper, they enter into a legal contract. The authors produces the paper and the publisher agrees to publish. To rescind publication of a paper is to break a contract, except in cases of fraud. The other exception is error in analysis that invalidates the paper’s claim (e.g., a math paper that has a non-correctable flaw in a proof or mis-coded data whose corrections leads to an entirely new conclusion – even then, maybe the paper should just be rewritten).

Second, there is a pragmatic reason. When you cater to retraction demands, outside of fraud and extreme error, you then undermine the role of the editor. Basically, an editor is given the position of choosing papers for an audience. They are not obligated to accept or reject any papers except those they deem interesting or of high quality. And contrary to popular belief, they do not have to accept papers that receive good reviews nor must they reject papers that receive bad reviews. Peer review is merely advisory, not a binding voting mechanism, unless the editor decides to simply let the majority rule. Thus, if editors ceded authority of publishing to the “masses,” they would simply stop being editors and more like advertisers, who cater to the whims of the public.

Third, I think it is unscholarly. Retraction is literally suppression of speech and professors should demand debate. We are supposed to be the guardians of reason, not the people leading the charge for censorship.

So what should you do if you find that a journal publishes bad, insulting or inflammatory material? Don’t ask for a retraction. There are many proper responses. Readers can simply boycott the journal, by not reading it or citing it. Or they can ask a library to stop paying for it. Peers can agree to stop reviewing for it or to dissociate themselves from the journal. A publisher can review the material and then decide to not renew an editor’s contract. Or if the material is consistently bad, they can fire the editor.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street / Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome 

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Written by fabiorojas

September 21, 2017 at 4:01 am

third world world quarterly should not retract “the case for colonialism”

with 3 comments

Third World Quarterly recently published an article by Bruce Gilley called “The Case for Colonialism (TCfC)” The article makes a few related claims, but it boils down to:

  1. Many anti-colonial movements were horrible.  (see pp. 5-6)
  2. Colonialism rests on “cosmopolitanism” and this is a a good thing. (see p. 8)
  3. Thus, when you properly consider the costs and benefits, you should rethink the value of colonialism.

I’ll address these claims below, but I first wanted to address the movement to retract TCfC – see here. Basically, the retraction advocates think the article is offensive and appalling. It may be, but that doesn’t mean it should be retracted.

The job of a journal editor is to select articles that they think advances their field and raise interesting issues. If they think “The Case for Colonialism” does so, they should not retract the article. It represents an argument they think should be debated. Retraction should not be done simply because the article is bad or offensive. Retraction should only happen if the article turns out to be fraudulent. Otherwise, if an editor thinks the article has value, let it be. Critics can write their own response. Or, if they think the level of scholarship is horrid, they can stop reading it and ask the library to drop it.

Now, what about the argument? Does colonialism get a bad rap? Let’s start with what I think is correct. I believe it to be true that many anti-colonial movements and post-colonial governments were horrible. For every leader like Ghandi, we get other leaders who, simply put, were savage killers, from the corrupt Mobutu Sese Seku of Congo to the Marxist movements of Ethiopia and North Korea, which brought mass death. So yes, the reflexive praise of anti-colonial movements often overlooks the grotesque outcomes

Here is what I disagree with. Analyses like Gilley’s often overlook the massive death brought by Western colonizers. Let’s take just one example – the colonial government in the Belgian Congo is thought to have killed 10 million people. This is murder on Hitlerian and Stalinist proportions. Belgian Congo is not an isolated case. Mass murder accompanied Western colonization in many places. Even if Gilley is correct in that colonial governments may have brought some values, it is hard to believe how they would balance out this massive loss of humanity.

Let me end on a constructive note. As written, Gilley’s article is an intellectual failure. But we can extract a valuable insight. Colonialism wasn’t about bringing the best of the West to the world. It brought the worst of the West to the world. Western culture has produced amazing things – the belief in human rights and equality and modern science. But that is not what was brought to the people of the world. If Western governments had truly prioritized the best of Western culture, then Gilley might have a point. Similarly, the critics might be right if anti-colonialists had rejected the worst of the West and brought the best of the West. Instead, many anti-colonial movements retreated into Marxism, Maoism and other ideologies that killed and impoverished millions. They should have espoused tolerance, liberal culture and markets.

Bottom line: Debate, don’t retract. And in terms of colonialism, it deserves its reputation. it was horrible. In opposing repression, we can do better than what happened in the post-colonial era.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street / Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome 

 

Written by fabiorojas

September 20, 2017 at 4:01 am

indiana is the center of the sociological universe

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Weird fact: 4 of the ASA journals are now hosted at Indiana state universities. The American Sociological Review (Notre Dame), the Journal of Health and Social Behavior (Purdue), the Sociology of Education (Purdue) and Contexts (IU). I am not sure what to say about this. It may be dumb luck, but it’s probably a reflection of the fact that this small place has an unusually high number of good sociologists. I’m lucky to be here and I hope sociology continues to grow in this great state.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street / Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome 

Written by fabiorojas

September 18, 2017 at 4:01 am

three cheers for speedy open access

Over at Scatter Plot, Dan Hirschman discusses the advantages of publishing in Sociological Sciences, which employs a simple “up or down” decision process and fast time to print:

When we finished our first revisions, we could have sent the paper to a traditional journal and waited. If we were lucky, the paper might have been reviewed “quickly” in just a couple months, received an R&R, been re-reviewed in a couple more months, eventually accepted, and published, a process that would have taken at least a year, and typically more like 2. Instead, on June 21st we submitted the paper for review at Sociological Science and simultaneously uploaded the draft to SocArXiv. Posting the paper to SocArXiv meant that whether or not the paper was accepted in a timely fashion at a journal it would be available to anyone who was interested.

Sociological Science conditionally accepted the paper on July 17, just under a month later. We revised the paper and resubmitted it on July 27. The revised version was accepted on July 29th, page proofs came on August 9th, and the published version came out August 28th. Total time from submission to print: just over two months.

Dan also notes that his paper was read by a gazillion people when the Trump administration signalled that it would (re)-litigate affirmative action. By having a public draft in SocArxiv, millions could access the paper. A win for Dan and Ellen and a win for science. Three cheers for open access.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street / Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!

Written by fabiorojas

August 31, 2017 at 12:01 am

that gender studies hoax is dumb, but look at this business model

Today’s five-minute-hate is on gender studies, or people who dump on gender studies, depending on your POV. The short version for those of you not paying attention: A philosopher and a math PhD decided gender studies is dumb and ideological. They wrote up a jargon- and buzzword-filled article titled “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construction” and paid to get it published in a peer-reviewed journal no one’s ever heard of. Ha ha ha! Take that, gender studies!

This is a stupid prank that has already been taken down in about five different places. I’m not going to bother with that.

But in looking at the original journal, I noticed this crazy business model they have. The journal, Cogent Social Sciences, is an open-access outlet published by Cogent OA. It charges $1350 to publish an article, unless you don’t have $1350, in which case they’ll take some unspecified minimum.

Okay, so far it sounds like every other scammy “peer-reviewed” open access journal. But wait. Cogent OA, it turns out, is owned by Taylor & Francis, one of the largest academic publishers. Taylor & Francis owns Routledge, for instance, and publishes Economy and SocietyEnvironmental Sociology, and Justice Quarterly, to pick a few I’ve heard of.

Cogent OA has a FAQ that conveniently asks, “What is the relationship between Cogent OA and Taylor & Francis?” Here’s the answer (bold is mine):

Cogent OA is part of the Taylor & Francis Group, benefitting from the resources and experiences of a major publisher, but operates independently from the Taylor & Francis and Routledge imprints.

Taylor & Francis and Routledge publish a number of fully open access journals, under the Taylor & Francis Open and Routledge Open imprints. Cogent OA publishes the Cogent Series of multidisciplinary, digital open access journals.

Together, we also provide authors with the option of transferring any sound manuscript to a journal in the Cogent Series if it is unsuitable for the original Taylor & Francis/Routledge journals, providing benefits to authors, reviewers, editors and readers.

So get this: If your article gets rejected from one of our regular journals, we’ll automatically forward it to one of our crappy interdisciplinary pay-to-play journals, where we’ll gladly take your (or your funder’s or institution’s) money to publish it after a cursory “peer review”. That is a new one to me.

There’s a hoax going on here all right. But I don’t think it’s gender studies that’s being fooled.

Written by epopp

May 20, 2017 at 4:16 pm

at contexts, we’ll stand by your article

Over at Contexts, Phillip and Syed have their own response to the Hypatia/Tuvel controversy. They think that Hypatia should stand by their article and then they describe their recent experience publishing a controversial interview of Rachel Dolezal, conducted by NYU’s Ann Morning:

Contexts as a magazine, we as editors, and Ann Morning took a lot of flak for our publishing this interview. Why did we publish it? Dolezal, like her or not, has a fascinating story, and Morning did a great job interviewing her. Are there reasons to be critical? Of course there are—there always are. So go ahead and criticize, we can take it. We are firmly in the camp that it’s better to publish stuff that sparks a conversation than to not. Haters will hate (cool), but the constructive criticizers help to make our science better. Isn’t that what we signed up for? Criticizers could pitch us an article idea—arguably a better use of time than a Twitter rant. No one actually did this yet, though.

Everything that goes into Contexts (and we should think pretty much every publication, and certainly academic publications) has been approved by the editors (us) whether it is peer-reviewed or not. Unless there’s fraud, you stand behind the authors and their work you publish. Like we did with Ann Morning’s interview with Rachel Dolezal. If you can’t do that, you should resign.

Normally, editors can’t promise much. We can try to get your article reviewed in a timely fashion and we can give tips on responding to reviewers. But I’ll make this additional promise when Rashawn and I take over Contexts in a few months. We may agree with your article, or we may disagree with it, but if we publish it, we’ll stand by it.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street  

Written by fabiorojas

May 10, 2017 at 12:02 pm

it’s all about contexts

It is my pleasure to announce that Rashawn Ray and I will join Contexts as the new editors in Winter 2018. Contexts: Understanding People in Their Social worlds is the ASA’s magazine which brings the cutting edge of sociology to the public. Rashawn and I are humbled by the appointment. A lot of top notch people have edited this journal and we hope to live up to their legacy.

Let me tell you a little bit about Rashawn. I first met Rashawn when he was a graduate student at Indiana University. Immediately, he struck me as a highly intelligent and outgoing person. He begins a conversation with a smile. He is interested in what you have to say and really wants to learn from you. But more than that, he had a real interest in linking sociology to the concerns of everyday life. As time passed, this became clear to me. His research focuses on how social inequality affects health and well being and he is extremely active in getting the sociological vision out there through Facebook, Twitter and public speaking. The right guy for the right job – and associate professors can’t say “no!”

So what do we have in mind? First, we want to build on a decade and a half of excellence. Contexts is a magazine that pleases the mind and the eye. It is also an intellectual magazine that offers the public well-grounded but accessible accounts of academic research. Second, we want to really start engaging with the audiences that might enjoy sociological work, whether it be people in the policy world, business, or the arts. Rashawn and I are excited about the possibilities.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street  

Written by fabiorojas

April 21, 2017 at 12:01 am