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The opinions expressed on this page are mine alone. Any similarities to the views of my employer are completely coincidental.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Ethical Refereeing

I pose the following as purely hypothetical questions, though they are inspired by the experience of a colleague. Is it ethical for an academic journal editor to send an academic paper principally concerned with matters of fact about a social policy issue to a non-academic referee who works for an advocacy organization that is  interested primarily in facts that support their own views on the matter? Would we expect an advocate to lay aside their advocacy and in the interests of science assess an academic paper purely on its intrinsic merits? My first thoughts are that such an  editor would indeed be acting unethically and that the advocate would not be doing what  they are paid to do if he/she did not do everything in their power to discredit information that  might cause  their organization harm. The world of advocacy and the worlds of academia, though blurred at the edges are (or should be) really rather distinct. It makes me a bit queasy when academics don't see the difference. What do you think?


Primula Monkey said...

Meh essentially. If the article is "concerned with matters of fact" and no much else, then it's a list as opposed to an academic article and as such of limited value.

If it's about how to intrepret "things", then it being subjected to challenge, however contrived, is all good especially given the use of "strawmen" is the basis of however many academic articles.

The risk/bad-thing is presumably if the editor(s) caved in to weak arguments/critiques regardless of who made them.

Primula Monkey said...

Dear gawd, I thought I'd written my comment already.

Meh! There. If its simply about "facts" then its a list and as such not an academic article.

If its about how to interpret "facts" or which "facts" to consider important, then having them subject to challenge is all good given the importance of "strawmen" for yer average academic article.

The only bad thing is whether the editors are influenced by who is saying what iz all.