The Chronicle of Higher Education demands scholars receive “training in peer review” to reduce the instance of rude comments which hurt authors’ feelings
The transformation of academia into elite careerist hugbox continues apace.
The plague chronicle is opposed to a great many learned vanities, and none so much as peer review. My reasons are principled and personal. On the principled front, it’s bad because it erodes the editorial voice of academic publications, and because it is a tiresome means of policing compliance and conformity. More subtly, peer review is an enormous hassle, both for peer reviewers, who end up having to write a lot of worthless reports on worthless papers that will never see the light of day; and for authors, whose reviewers invariably demand multiple revisions even to unproblematic manuscripts. It’s a convention that favours nothing so much as bland, unobjectionable papers that say the same thing as all the other bland, unobjectionable papers that came before them.
At the personal level, peer review just sucks. It causes egregious delays and leads to random editorial decisions that nobody can understand or justify. Before my disillusionment, I peer reviewed submissions for multiple journals. In one emblematic instance, I received a long and complex manuscript, the author of which I immediately recognised, because I’d heard him make the same arguments at a conference the year before. I knew already that he was wrong, in a complex way, and I was so full of youthful idealism that I wasted two weeks of my life writing an extremely detailed report for the editors, explaining exactly where he had messed up and how. The editors rejected the submission, but that didn’t matter at all, because a nearly identical version appeared in a competing journal the very next year, under a slightly different name, because the author had in the meantime decided he was a woman.
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