Colleen Flaherty at Inside Higher Ed has the story:
Academic freedom is meant to protect scholars with controversial ideas. But a group of philosophers says academic freedom isn’t protection enough in an era of campus speech debates, internet trolls and threats against professors — and that academics now need a place to publish their most sensitive ideas pseudonymously.
That venue, The Journal of Controversial Ideas, will launch next year. Co-founder Peter Singer, Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics in the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University, and no stranger to controversial ideas, mentioned the idea for such a journal in a 2017 interview. But plans for it took shape in a BBC Radio 4 documentary on viewpoint diversity, which airs for the first time this week.
Jeff McMahan, White’s Professor of Moral Philosophy at University of Oxford, told the BBC that the need for more open discussion is “really very acute.” There’s “greater inhibition on university campuses about taking certain positions for fear of what will happen,” he said, with the political right and left alike stoking that “fear.” Threats to academic freedom and free speech from within the university tend to come the left, he added, while outside threats tend to come from the right. More.
Yeah. The outside barks but the inside bites. Many of us, if it’s our skin in the game, prefer the bark, however bad. Anyhow, two views are emerging:
Some think that the current system facilitates “responsible publishing”:
Defenders of The Journal of Controversial Ideas see it as a forum for true academic freedom. While academic freedom is important, it is not an unlimited right. Freedom without responsibility is recklessness. It is a lack of regard for the danger or consequences of one’s ideas. True academic freedom does not mean that writers get to choose when to avoid controversy. The pseudonymous authorship proposal allows authors to manipulate the credit and blame systems of the academy in the name of academic freedom.
When it is working well, academic inquiry is a conversation. Researchers make claims and counterclaims, exchange reasons, and work together to open up new fields of inquiry. A conversation needs speakers: we need to keep track of who is talking, what they have said before, and who they are talking to. Pseudonymous authorship is an opt-out from the conversation, and the academic community will be worse off if its members no longer want to engage in intellectual conversation.Haixin Dang and Joshua Habgood-Coote, “The Journal of Controversial Ideas: it’s academic freedom without responsibility, and that’s recklessness” at The Conversation
Then there’s the question of whether the current system even remotely resembles what Dang and Habgood-Coote describe. :From a response
There is so much shoddy research already in existence, that the fields of psychology and biomedical science are facing a reproducibility crisis. Putting the real authors’ names on these papers hasn’t prevented bad research from being published.
Additionally, just because a paper is pseudonymous does not necessarily mean that the papers will be of poor quality. Consider The Economist. Every article is published anonymously. Yet, the newspaper is highly trustworthy because the institution is concerned with maintaining its own credibility. Likewise, the editors of The Journal of Controversial Ideas likely will want to maintain a good reputation for their journal, which would incentivize them to publish responsibly.Alex Berezow, “The ‘Journal Of Controversial Ideas’ Is A Fantastic Idea” at American Council on Science and Health
The real question is the one that isn’t on the table: Why is the public supporting university faculties that seem to be one long-running Sokal hoax? If that’s based on the belief that a college education advances a person socially, the stats may be out of date: “the data show a recent meaningful decline in the differential between high school diploma holders and those with bachelor’s degrees. For males with high school diplomas, average earnings rose by $1,551 from 2015 to 2017; for bachelor degree holders, earnings actually fell by $367. For females, earnings rose $1,212 for those with high school diplomas, but only $312 for those with bachelor’s degrees. The payoff for having a college degree was falling.” (The Independent) More on this later, but that’s the conversation we really need to have. Not whether they’re responsible (to whom?) but whether they are even needed.
There’s also the question of whether people who are really upset by controversial ideas should even be at a university.;
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See also: Surprise: Science thrives when people can admit they didn’t prove something
What can a huge retractions database teach us? Overall, improved vigilance has slowed the trend, but key problems remain, including manipulated images. If a picture is worth a thousand words, that’s about three to five paragraphs of falsehood.