Tuesday, July 8, 2014

When Ignorance Is Bliss, Academic Edition

Dan Nexon, editor of ISQ, is seeking feedback from reviewers about stuff that causes reviewers to see red.  My fave: when people cite an author as saying x when actually x happens to be the argument they are seeking to criticize or challenge.  Sure, I mostly notice it when people cite me wrong, but hey, reading comprehension, people!

Anyhow, this has led to some comments about how knowing more about the reviewing process might just create more anxiety for those submitting articles.  If one has to think about every way in which they might be antagonizing reviewers, then potential submitters might find themselves paralyzed.  That over-thinking, which is an occupational hazard/requirement, might lead to too much thinking about how to get past the reviewers and not enough thinking about the argument/methods/data/findings itself.

There is a basic tension in much of this stuff, and not just article writing but also the job market--that thinking about the game within the game can distract from thinking about the game itself.  One of the problems I have with much of the stuff at Political Science Rumors (aside from the misogyny, racism, and meanness--which can be moderated/deleted) is that the focus is on explaining outcomes that are not about the work.

I get accused of being naive because I tend to think that the work matters, rather than networks, reputation, rankings and all that.  I don't think it is only about the work, but I do think that if more time is spent on doing interesting work and making sure that one writes about it in a way that makes it interesting to others, then one is better off.

Still, there is already much thinking about how to game the review process--that there are beliefs about how to cite people to get the "right" reviewers and avoid the "wrong" ones, that there are many beliefs about the process that are just wrong.*  That more information about how it really works, even if it creates some anxiety, is surely better than ignorance.
* To be clear, I am not referring to the truly awful citation/review gaming stuff that hit the news today. While it is a bit sketchy to cite key people in your first few paragraphs to try to get those people selected to be your reviewer, it is another order of magnitude to create false accounts so that you can review your own stuff.

The problem, of course, with much more difficult job markets and increasing tenure standards is that the stakes are high.  Which means there is far more fear.  And we know what happens when there is more fear:

and yes, I could have used a clip from The Wire "it is all in the game, yo" or something like that but summer is for Star Wars.

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