July 13, 2011

Academic Peer review according to Michelle Lamont: The study

by Jennifer Eve Appleton

Michelle Lamont a sociologist professor at Harvard university, similar to ourselves she has endeavoured towards critiquing the peer review process. She delved into the sociological aspects of peer review, asking the question ‘what is excellence?’.

 

The rewarding of ‘excellence’ is used throughout the world of academia, a driving force, something to strive for. Lamont investigated the concept of excellence and its applications in higher education: scholarly peer review. The peer review processes she studied involved grants to professors and graduate students, and all the panels involved professors from many disciplines.

Her study led to the writing of her book; ‘How Professors Think: Inside the Curious World of Academic Judgment.’

 

“The book draws on interviews with scholars who serve on funding panels to analyze cultures of excellence across disciplines. How do we decide what is good? How do we come to think of our judgments as fair? How do we understand the place of self-interests and interpersonal connections in our evaluation? How do we blend diversity and excellence? How do economists, philosophers, anthropologists English professors, historians, and political scientists compare? What is the role of emotions and interaction in the evaluation process? This book opens up the black box of peer review to offer a unique peek into what happens behind the door of secretive deliberative chambers….”

 

The book aspires to reveal what happens behind the scenes in the academic world, where life-changing decisions are made, which can make or break careers. The sociology professor pledged confidentiality gained access to watch peer review panels at work.

 

Over two years, Lamont conducted 81 interviews with panelists and with the panels’ program officers and chairpersons. She was also able to observe three peer review panels after pledging confidentiality. Although she describes that most peer reviewers are dedicated and take their duties extremely seriously, she uncovered numerous failings.

 

Failings include Professors whose judgments are tainted by personal conflicts and interests, the rewarding of qualities such as fortitude rather than the specified qualities in the grant criteria. Even the devious angle of deal making between panelists raises its ugly head….

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How Professors Think
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April 1, 2011

At least the BBC still cares about rice

by farehalasker
BBC cites rice genome paper

The BBC 'cites' the rice genome sequencing paper

A recent discovery of a gene trait which allows rice to recover quickly in droughts has cited my genome sequencing paper. The BBC piece of March 4th speaks of a gene which had previously been discovered to give flood-resistance to rice as now showing the impressive recovery trait- this is important as most countries in the world that grow rice do so through extreme weather conditions.  Continue reading

April 1, 2011

The many ways a scientist can lie

by farehalasker

In a paper published in the European Journal of Oncology, Professor John Bailar discusses how he thinks that although it is not often scientists directly lie, it is a common trait to mislead. They can do this without resorting to fraud or other direct lies.

Scientific graph

False graphs and charts are not the only way scientists can lie to us

The choice of the topic of the study is a big area. Bailar uses the example of the tobacco industry- their preferred method of lying is through the use of secret research. If the secret research  shows a secondary one will not be harmful to the industry, only then are the results published.

Scientists are clever humans and know how to frame a question that will allow them to reach a pre-determined outcome. A study can also be put into the hands of a person adept at interpreting results in certain ways. Most scientists have peers that are engaged in such methods of interpretation and can invite them to interpret their specific study.

Continue reading

April 1, 2011

No thanks, Philica

by farehalasker

As introduced by Anka, Philica is in theory a good idea- an alternative to peer review could be just what is needed to shake up the old process. But just how effective is it? The answer is probably not very. Their review process starts after publication- already a bit too late to have an impact on the papers reviewed by them. Why would I care if Philica didn’t like my paper if Nature already had? Continue reading

April 1, 2011

Upcoming events in peer review

by JasmineMalone

So, if you want to more about peer review, whether it’s how to be a good reviewer or to continue the debate on system, here are some juicy upcoming talks you can attend – please note this post will be updated as new events are announced:

More soon!

April 1, 2011

THEMIS, NASA, and MSIP: How they interact

by Richard Masters

NASA Image

The Nature article I reviewed was Evidence for magmatic evolution and diversity on Mars from infrared observation. Through looking at the citing articles, I noted at the time that there were 3 interacting bodies that may have lead to the amount of potential citation bias I found- namely THEMIS, NASA and MSIP. In this post, I’ll set out the role and purpose of each organisation and note their interactions. In this way, I hope to go some way in explaining my results.

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