Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The most eloquent "bite me" I think I have ever seen.

I am an academic and, specifically, a social scientist who likes to conduct research. Okay, that's not quite fully honest- I f-ing love research. I love working on it, I love reading about it, and I even love writing about it... mostly. I mean, the writing I could do without since it distracts me from doing still more research but I've learned to live with that. Unfortunately, one thing I don't much enjoy is the publication process. In science we utilize a system of peer review, meaning that before our work sees print it is evaluated by other professionals in our field. That's what we like to tell ourselves anyway- in reality I am convinced that occasionally our work is reviewed by what I term "raging assholes."* This means that the publications process can be extremely frustrating- particularly when it is quite evident that one or more reviewers didn't read your paper or, even worse, is blessed with roughly the same level of intelligence as clams.** It goes without saying that all of us who deal with peer review have, at one time or another, wanted to do real physical violence to peer reviewers. Some of us have gone so far as to construct voodoo dolls for the purpose, though I concede that my atheism makes that an unappealing solution for me despite its efficacy. In any case, most of us have learned to simply suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous reviews in relative silence.

Except this guy, who has written perhaps the single most eloquent explanation of why a reviewer should screw off that I think I have ever seen in published work. Seriously, it's a work of genius and I just have to share it:

An anonymous reviewer of this paper asked why the field should accept these definitions, suggesting that it might be better to embrace definitions on the basis of how words have been used rather than to impose arbitrary standards about how they "ought" to be used. A survey of past usage is appropriate for term papers on the history of social thought, but science, even social science, is not served by ancestor worship. No introductory physics book offers Aristotle's definition of matter as one of the respectable alternatives. The same principle applies in the social scientific study of religion. We are not obliged to stick with poorly defined terms, simply because some dead Europeans or Harvardians defined them that way. What we must seek are definitions of terms that are coherent, mutually exclusive, and theoretically efficient. If I have not achieved these goals, then this essay too ought to go into the dustbin of intellectual history.

Given that I construe the paragraph above as being somewhat rude in intent I will decline to identify the author but, that said, I agree completely with everything he has to say in this paragraph and think the article it derives from is actually quite good.

And people say reading journal articles isn't exciting!

* One of these days I'm going to blog about my mathematical analysis of the "raging asshole problem," but that day is not today.

** Not a scientology joke, although not for lack of opportunity.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

We just read some great back-and-forth between Loic Wacquant and Elijah Anderson in one of our seminars. It was great reading.

Someone should put together a compendium of such writings.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008 12:48:00 PM  

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