Trahison des Clercs
Notions, Patterns and AntiPatterns of Scholarshipveryard projects > knowledge management > trahison des clercs
|standards and betrayal||background||on this page||links|
|The French term trahison des
clercs refers to the betrayal of intellectual standards
The material on this page is part of a more general project to identify negative patterns in various domains.
|Having served many times on programme committees, reviewing
papers submitted to conferences and journal special issues, I have started
to recognize some common patterns of poor scholarship.
In some cases, these patterns reflect deliberate abuses of the system, perpetrated by academics under pressure to publish widely and prematurely. In other cases, they reflect sheer ignorance or laziness on the part of the academic or his/her supervisor. In both cases, I believe, it is the duty of the reviewer or editor to detect such patterns and prevent their propagation.
Comments please Do you recognize any of these patterns? Can you add to the list?
|scholarship notions||Design pitfalls as negative
Trahison des Clercs - Notions of Scholarshipveryard projects > knowledge management > trahison des clercs > notions
"The scholar expends his entire strength in affirmation and denial,
in criticizing what has already been thought - he himself no
longer thinks." [Nietzsche, Ecce Homo]
Trahison des Clercs - AntiPatterns of Researchveryard projects > knowledge management > trahison des clercs > research patterns
Sadly, there is sometimes little incentive for researchers to over-achieve on these minimal objectives. Any additional ideas or findings that appear original or interesting can be hoarded for the next funding application.
I have also seen the same research process from the other side, having often received questionnaires from students asking my opinion on a range of topics. There seems to be no clear basis for selecting me as a member of some panel, no clear process (such as Delphi) for allowing the panel to converge on a collective expert opinion, and scant evidence that the student would be able to produce a meaningful result from the questionnaire returns.
I have even received such questionnaires broadcast via Internet email lists. On a recent occasion, the sender indicated that this was part of his doctoral research!
(In discussion with colleagues at the time, we wondered whether the guy’s supervisor really has no notion of what a ‘true sample’ might look like, or whether he was cynically promoting intellectually sloppy work in order to milk some funding institution that knows no better.)
|Richard Heeks, What Did Giddens and Latour Ever Do For Us? (IFIP 9.4 Newsletter, Volume 11, No. 1, April 2001)|
Trahison des Clercs - AntiPatterns of Published Papersveryard projects > knowledge management > trahison des clercs > paper patterns
(It might be better to call them "preclusions".)
Academics are often put under pressure to publish something within the first year of a three-year research project, when they haven't yet got any results. Sometimes the ideas are good and interesting, and worthy of wider discussion, but they need careful critical analysis.
"In terms of communication between researchers, IS and development writings show a surprising and disappointing lack of inter-referencing. That is, theory-engaged writers rarely reference other IS and development writers, except self-references to their own previous work."
When reviewing papers, I sometimes helpfully provide references to relevant work. Some authors seem to think this gives them licence to add these references to the paper without even bothering to look at the work itself.
Trahison des Clercs - AntiPatterns of Research Conferencesveryard projects > knowledge management > trahison des clercs > conference patterns
In practice, the keynote speech has become a form of patronage. Just as worthy charities have illustrious patrons on their letterhead, so international conferences need gurus, emeritus professors, media stars, articulate businessmen or politicians as keynote speakers. The hope is that people will recognize the name of the keynote speaker, and will be persuaded to attend the conference to hear him/her.
Everybody crowds into the main hall, laughs at the scripted jokes, and politely claps at the end. Then they disappear into their parallel streams and forget everything the keynote speaker said. Often the keynote speaker rushes to the airport to give the same performance somewhere else, and hasn't got the time to stay for the whole conference.
And in some conferences, there are several keynote speakers, offering rival keynotes. I attended one conference recently, where the third keynote speaker made jokes at the expense of the first (no longer present) keynote speaker. Cheap laughter, but not very enlightening.
Trahison des Clercs - AntiPatterns of Serial Researchveryard projects > knowledge management > trahison des clercs > series patterns
This rarely happens. Instead, each conference contains renewed (and inconclusive) attempts to invent conceptual frameworks, new terminology.
Sometimes the previous proceedings are barely mentioned. It is as if each conference is the first in the series.
Trahison des Clercs - AntiPatterns of Peer Reviewveryard projects > knowledge management > trahison des clercs > review patterns
The myth of the super-reviewer distorts the behaviour of editors and programme chairs (who expect each reviewer to cover all aspects of a paper) and reviewers themselves (who may feel unable to reject papers without adequate justification).
Note that the software industry, for all its faults, has developed techniques for peer review that overcome some of these problems, and allow good use to be made of the actual knowledge and capabilities of a team of reviewers. Sadly, these techniques are not widely enough practised, even by software engineers.
My preference as a reviewer is to provide a detailed account of the shortcomings and imperfections of a paper, and indicate some things that would have to be improved before publication, as well as some further suggestions. It is galling to see my reviewing work wasted, as the paper subsequently gets published without any sign that my requirements or suggestions have been heeded.
|If it's hard-going, then it might be profound. I don't have the time to work out whether it makes any sense, and to find enough flaws to justify rejecting it, so I'd better accept it.|
|The paper goes outside my specialist area, so I don't have sufficient grounds for rejecting it.|
|The paper doesn't conform to my preconceptions about subject or method, so it must be rubbish.|
|The paper is obscure, so it must be rubbish.|
|I agree/disagree with the findings, so the paper must be good/bad.|
|If this gets published, it will make my work look good in comparison.|
|If this gets published, it will undermine my work.|
|If this gets published, it will create a precedent for future publication in this area.|
|If this gets published, it will foreclose further publication in this area..|
|I'm outraged that this research got funding in the first place. I hope that no more funding gets wasted on this stuff. So although the paper itself is okay, I shall reject it, because I reject the research programme that sponsored it.|
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