Intelligent Design Peer review

Business prof argues: Journals these days are obsessed by theory

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To the detriment of promoting excellence in their disciplines:

The fetishisation of theory does have practical payoffs for editors. For one Swedish academic, Pär J. Ågerfalk, the charge of “insufficient theoretical contribution” can be employed as a neat rhetorical brush-off for submissions that editors do not like the look of but “cannot quite put their finger on why”. Judging manuscripts against this vague gold standard renders editorial verdicts simultaneously opaque and irrefutable – and ever more open to professional backscratching.

I remember an article in Times Higher Education back in 2005 that recounted what a journal editor said to someone he had asked to review a submission by a leading light in the field, after being informed that this someone was a close friend of the author. “We both know we are going to publish it anyway. This is really just a formal exercise, so could you just go through the motions?” The luminary’s reaction? “The editor had kind of given the game away. Now I know I can send him any old rubbish and get it in.”

Michael Marinetto, “Why are journals so obsessed by theory?” at Times Higher Education

(paywall)

That might explain a lot of the stale Darwinism we see in journals. “Any old rubbish.”

3 Replies to “Business prof argues: Journals these days are obsessed by theory

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    Yes, but this has been going on for 60 years. Not really news.

    Fortunately, in the fields that really matter, good observational science CAN be published. Smart authors understand how to avoid stirring up the editorial hornet nest. There’s no reason to mention either evolution OR design. Just observe and analyze reality, and let the reader add his own biases.

    The total focus on theory dominates in fields where no valid observations have ever occurred, like “social science” and “philosophy” and quantum “physics”.

  2. 2
    kairosfocus says:

    Poli, not quantum physics, perhaps you mean some parts of high energy physics and cosmology? KF

  3. 3
    Seversky says:

    You can gather all the observational data you like but without a good theory to make sense of it all it’s useless. That’s why a good theory is so highly-prized in science. That was one of the points of the parable of the “Westminster Project” in Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World. If this “business prof” doesn’t get that then maybe an MBA on the wall doesn’t make you the smartest kid on the block.

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