18.735 dubious conferences and gloomy thoughts

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Sun, 24 Apr 2005 07:54:02 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 18, No. 735.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

   [1] From: Alexandre Enkerli <aenkerli_at_indiana.edu> (46)
         Subject: Dubious Research and Academia

   [2] From: Ken Friedman <ken.friedman_at_bi.no> (28)
         Subject: A gloomy thought

         Date: Sun, 24 Apr 2005 07:28:00 +0100
         From: Alexandre Enkerli <aenkerli_at_indiana.edu>
         Subject: Dubious Research and Academia

Through the topic of dubious research, we came to touch several topics
which have to do with academia as a whole. Yes, we do have a
responsibility, especially in Humanities and Social Sciences, to make our
work intelligible to a broad audience. Interdisciplinarity, in our case,
should be quite easy as we use a lot of concepts that people use every day.
It's interesting, though, that alternatives to the "Publish or Perish"
principle aren't discussed more specifically. After all, if the method to
achieve CV-padding relies on specialized jargon, the impetus behind
CV-padding is the need to prove one's worth.

As we all know, some academics do extremely useful work yet rarely publish
in peer-reviewed journal. Typically, especially in the US, they either
achieved tenure before the "Publish or Perish" principle became too
powerful, or they work at an institution upon which other academics look=
down. Seriously, a large part of the problem might be the lack of "good
jobs" in academia (though things are getting easier in some places) but at
least a small part of the problem is due to condescending attitudes on the
part of some people. Non-academics tend to rely on the prestige of
well-known institutions as if ideas came from prestige. Academics play into
the same notion.

Sophisticated use of language has an obvious effect on the perception of
prestige. Those of us who spend most of their writing in a second language
are judged first and foremost by our capacity to use that language long
before our ideas are heard. This works across disciplines. A social
scientist who doesn't prove her knowledge of the humanistic canon will
probably be perceived as naive by humanists even if her ideas are sound and

Granted, academia has changed quite a bit in the last thirty years. Those
of us who began our training during that period of change are easily
surprised by some attitudes held back from a prior era. And, at one point,
there will be alternatives to publication in peer-reviewed journals. Or, at
the very least, peer-reviewed journals will have more to do with the
"review by academic peers" than with the prestige afforded a given publication.

One can hope.

Alexandre Enkerli
Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology
Indiana University

         Date: Sun, 24 Apr 2005 07:29:58 +0100
         From: Ken Friedman <ken.friedman_at_bi.no>
         Subject: A gloomy thought

Dear Willard,

Like others on the list, I have reviewed papers for many conferences that
consider themselves (or hope to consider themselves) serious rather than
dubious. After reviewing papers and then seeing final selections, it
sometimes seems to me that good, well written papers are rejected by the
consensus of referees. In contrast, some paper that get through look much
like the papers generated by a phrase engine. As one of those old-time
comics would have said, "Go figure."

Clear writing is a virtue. One great virtue of clear writing is that we
ourselves must understand what we are writing to express ourselves well
enough for others to understand what we mean.

The trick of the computerized paper generator is that it resembles the
writing of human phrase generators who use jargon. The algebra of jargon is
dangerous precisely because human beings can manipulate it to shape
seemingly meaningful sentences that they do not themselves understand.

One may wonder where there is a significant difference between
electromechanical and human phrase generators.

Ken Friedman
Professor of Leadership and Strategic Design
Department of Leadership and Organization
Norwegian School of Management
Design Research Center
Denmark's Design School
+47 06600           Tlf NSM
+47    Tlf Office
+47    Tlf Privat
email: ken.friedman_at_bi.no
Received on Sun Apr 24 2005 - 03:08:06 EDT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.2.0 : Sun Apr 24 2005 - 03:08:07 EDT