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

Monday, 16 January 2017

Epistemic Communities

Social media directed me to this paper put out by the NCRM. I  know that there are some members of our profession who are incomprehensible  and pride themselves on it, but the abstract seems to grant some kind of legitimacy  to incomprehensibility. How else should one interpret its advice about "validity within epistemic communities"?

If its now acceptable to admit that there are different criteria (standards?) of validity depending on which tribe you belong to isn't it time to  admit  that in some of the social sciences pretty much anything goes (as long as as you can get enough fellow-travellers on board) and consider seriously the implications of this for journal refereeing, REF panels etc. 

Don't get me wrong, I don't want to ban the social poets or wish them any harm. I just want them to have their own epistemic community, their own sources of funding and their own journals far away from the rest of us where they can adopt whatever criteria of validity they find pleasing without interfering with those of us that want to do social science. Then we'll see how long they can last when they have to stand on their own two feet.

Strangely enough my recreational reading at the moment is Stanislaw Lem's Solaris which is all about mutual incomprehensibility. Synchronicity or what?


Anonymous said...

The "content" of the paper is even "better": 14 apparently well-known authors all refusing to give an answer on a couple of pages each (the closest we get is: one who outlines what he or she did in one of her own studies without discussing whether this was good; and one who says 30 to 50 are a common but wrong answer; and one saying that with the resources available he or she managed 35 interviews or so).

Colin said...

Yes, it read to me like it was written by a bunch of people desperately trying to avoid talking about the elephant in the room: the implications of human variability for case selection.