Guest post: When ‘scholarship’ seems to be defined by counting citations

Originally a comment by Ian on The broad, well-established, interdisciplinary scholarly fields.

All this mouthing off about ‘scholarship’ comes over to me as unbearably pretentious, especially when ‘scholarship’ seems at best to be defined by counting citations. I’ve read the article and it seems like something that, in the Journals I used to read, would have been in the Notes and Comments section. It is however clearly and unambiguously written, which in some academic fields I know will count against it.

Even if we take the claims of the writers of the open letter at face value, that they were concerned about the failure of the editors to maintain scholarly standards and it was not a personal attack on the author, they still demonstrate a breathtaking arrogance. If there are defects in ‘scholarship’ it isn’t enough to simply make the claim. It requires a counter-argument, with evidence that is more than just argument from authority.

I’m not in academia, but I spent 40+ years in a profession where I was expected to make arguments for policy decisions, often in legal or quasi-legal contexts. Had I attempted to make a case such as is presented in the open letter, I would have been almost literally laughed out of court.

I think many of them would do well to read Andreski’s ‘Social Sciences as Sorcery’ – it doesn’t look as if things have improved much since the 70s, when it was published. A quote:

So long as authority inspires awe, confusion and absurdity enhance conservative tendencies in society. Firstly, because clear and logical thinking leads to a cumulation of knowledge (of which the progress of the natural sciences provides the best example) and the advance of knowledge sooner or later undermines the traditional order. Confused thinking, on the other hand, leads nowhere in particular and can be indulged indefinitely without producing any impact upon the world.

20 Responses to “Guest post: When ‘scholarship’ seems to be defined by counting citations”