28 August 2010

Daily Digest, 2010.08.27

Friday: editor of Cognition says fabrication of evidence the only "plausible" explanation in Hauser case; would open online peer review become merely a popularity contest?; JSTOR riles the librarians; a new series on meaning in language; Williams Syndrome and synaesthesia; homology and analogy; genetics of the Ashkenazim; genetics of the Tut family; the evolution of music, at ICMPC; the sociology of religion in Death Metal; Best(Worst) Pun in a Science Book Title; a pig's whisper.
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27 August 2010

Daily Digest, 2010.08.26

Thursday: the rise of blatant anti-Semitism in Hungary; a disturbing resurgence of pseudo-scientific racial ideology in Germany; a study of e-journal use by UK academics (yawn); Sympoze (YAWN); 10 reading revolutions before the e-book; Burne reviews Kirsch, The Emperor's New Drugs; a profile of Ellen Langer; the evolution of color terms (continued); loneliness, and the imputation of human qualities to the non-human (or the non-existent); a review of Cordelia Fine, Delusions of Gender; blogging the 11th International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition; "Enlightenment" at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy; Schiele's "Portrait of Wally" returns to the Leopold Museum.
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26 August 2010

Daily Digest, 2010.08.25

Wednesday: Akst on peer review; Nigel Hawkes on peer review; experiments in peer review; organizing an open science project; the NYT comes out in favor of tweaking copyright; Stevie Nicks says Internet killed rock; a project to record symphonies for the public domain; the psychology of possibility; Grayling on neurophilosophy; autism at The Browser; inclusive fitness overturned?; the world's smallest frogs; Esperanza Spalding hits Europe; an interview with Klaus Heymann on the future of classical music recording; Ansel Adams Publishing Trust files suit; happy 80th birthday, Sean Connery.
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25 August 2010

Melody Dye on the "Politics of Ideas" (part 3)

Melody Dye at Child's Play continues with part 3 of her series on "the politics of ideas" (her description).

Her first two installments are here and here; they critique anonymous peer review as currently practiced in cognitive science and psychology (but with obvious relevance to other fields, including, although Dye hasn't mentioned this, to the humanities).

I have linked to and discussed these earlier installments here and here.

Dye introduces her third post as follows:
In earlier posts, I discussed how certain crooked editorial practices can effectively subvert the review process, and how lack of transparency in review breeds precisely the kind of culture that anonymous-review was designed to undermine.  Today, I address the question of why these problems exist in the first place, and explore how changing the culture of review may also change the culture of the field — for the better.
She explicitly limits herself in this post to the "cultures" of psychology and cognitive science, but the problems she describes are not limited to those fields, and her comments are of special relevance to the humanities, which are, it seems to me, even more caught up in a culture of "camps."

Some quotes:
In psychology, there are certain entrenched camps that will only cite each other with any regularity, and will, as a matter of course, not cite researchers outside their group, even when they conduct research on the same topics.  This is a clever means of ensuring that scientists with similar ideas rise to the top, while competitors stay down. Since citation rates are often taken as a measure of merit and impact, well-cited papers will then become even better cited papers.
This will sound depressingly familiar to my readers in the academic humanities.

To investigate the make-up and history of these "camps," she points to Neurotree, which constructs "family trees" for a given researcher (Steven Pinker, in her linked example).

(So far as I know, there is no similar "genealogical" resource for my former field of musicology.  I constructed a similar genealogy of scholars of 18th-century music in my lamentably unpublished introduction to the collection Music in Eighteenth-Century Austria. It was quite enlightening.)

Regarding these genealogies, Dye comments:
With many cognitive scientists, there are surprisingly close parallels between their citation records and their ‘ancestral’ relationships (both top-down and across the page).  I say surprising, because while you might expect a certain degree of continuity, the degree you find – particularly among researchers at elite institutions – is almost astonishing.

[...]

...the relationships established between senior colleagues and their youthful protégés can appear downright incestuous.  As happens quite frequently, the research questions of one generation are unloaded straight on down to the next, without criticism or comment.  Surely the young camp of researchers has new methods up their sleeves, and maybe new math, but they’re humming along to the strains of an all too familiar tune.  And this happens even when it’s clear that “the same old song” isn’t solving anyone’s problems anymore.
The old guard is naturally (in a human sense) resistant to considering that they may have spent their
professional lives chasing chimeras. Thus, as Dye writes:
And so this is something like what happens: The elder scientists stay close at the heels of the young, and handpick the bright new stars and talents that best embody their visions of the future (–which, by necessity, are visions of the past).  These chosen few are then shepherded through the hiring and tenure processes at the top schools, and cited and quoted by their guardians in all the best journals, and nominated for the most prestigious awards (–of the kind that not just anyone can apply for, of course).  And in this way, the senior scientists keep a steady grip on the coming age, which holds the bright and steady promise of their chosen descendants, who will hold the reigns over the next generation.
And this feeds directly into the publication process, including peer review.

There is much more, including a story (from Dye's own experience) of the world of art galleries, in which a wealthy "gallerist" describes that world to her as one of "insider trading" and legal and socially acceptable "money laundering."

More quotes:
Given that psychology has yet to establish a firm tradition of inquiry, it is critical that we discover — empirically — what the best theoretical modes and investigative approaches are in grappling with the study of mind.  This cannot be resolved by fiat, and it should not be decided by politics or popular theories, which may well turn out to be wrong.

No: what is required is a culture of honest and competent reviewing, which would allow for the dissemination of research on the basis of scientific rigor and advance.

But such a culture does not exist in psychology, and it cannot, so long as we maintain a system of anonymous peer review.  The system was put in place to protect us from the spite and vindictiveness of individuals, but it has become a system that perpetuates and intensifies our politics, stratifies our ranks, and allows us to forget the humanness of each other, and the joint purpose that we, as scientists, share.
So far as I can see, this passage (and indeed, her entire post) would be equally valid (and perhaps even more so) if one substituted the name of any field of the humanities (including "musicology") for "psychology." (Although, in undeserved deference to the general distaste among scholars in the humanities for the label "scientist," we can also change "scientists" to "scholars" in our recasting of Dye's sentences.)

She goes on to offer specific suggestions on how to reform the review process in psychology. She makes a powerful case that reviewers should not be anonymous, and that reviews and responses should be made available online.

Anyone interested in the politics of academic fields, including the humanities, and the corruption of the process of review should read this courageous post.
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Daily Digest, 2010.08.24

Tuesday: on anonymity, in comments and in peer review; Harvard no longer requires final exams (and why this is a good thing); a "discussion" of experimental philosophy; a struggle over an unretouched photo of Jennifer Aniston; new Mendelssohn letters; Brian Wilson reimagines Gershwin; songwriter George David Weiss has died; a new survey of proposed causes of Mozart's death; a review of "Close Examination—Fakes, Mistakes & Discoveries" at the National Gallery in London; the ventious craptests pounted raditally.
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24 August 2010

Daily Digest, 2010.08.23

Monday: disincentivizing greed; George Soros; memes and temes; more on the evolution of color terms; dogs and humans; von Sternberg's last three silent films released on DVD; Ed Yong on Atul Gawande.
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23 August 2010

Weekend Roundup, 21 to 22 August 2010

This Weekend: More on the Marc Hauser investigation; what is a doctorate? (a graphical depiction); the future of Internet search?; autistic brains; more on the evolution of color terms; psychopathology and the Theory of Mind; "Human Nature and Early Experience" (a symposium); celebrating the (sort-of) 50th anniversary of The Beatles; pianist Lise de la Salle; the world's highest-paid authors; "fact checking" in the Internet age; the history of sentence-initial "so"; Theory in a nutshell.
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