Saturday, May 20, 2017

Hampshire College commencement was today

Breitbart: "'Penises cause climate change'; Progressives fooled by peer-reviewed hoax study."

Update - A commenter adds: "...they submitted their penis paper elsewhere and got rejected, before settling for a pay-to-publish academic paper mill."  I was not aware of that and it wasn't made clear in the Breitbart article.  Basically, there's a lot more motivation for these journals to publish your paper than more reputable professional journals.

Thanks for the clarification.  Still kinda funny, but with context added.


Anonymous said...

For the record, I fully endorse all amusing pranks and hoaxes like this one. However, they submitted their penis paper elsewhere and got rejected, before settling for a pay-to-publish academic paper mill.

Mad Boston Arab said...

The pay-to-publish article was recommended by journal they submitted their article to. Doesn't diminish the pay-to-publish angle, but, one would think they would be a bigger outcry against these journals.

Anonymous said...

Why should, or would, there be an outcry against "vanity press"-level academic journals? Neither the journals nor their poorly vetted contents are considered serious or valuable studies by anyone.

There's enough to make fun of about academia, without resorting to the outer fringes to do so.

Hint: if you can only sell your homemade jewelry on, don't linger by the telephone waiting for Cartier or Tiffany's to call.

Harsh takedown of the takedown said...

An embarrassing moment for the skeptical movement

Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay attempted to replicate the Sokal hoax by trick-publishing a silly paper entitled “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct.” ...And (a large chunk of especially influential people in) the skeptic community joined the victory parade:

“We are proud to publish this exposé of a hoaxed article published in a peer-reviewed journal today.” (Michael Shermer)
“This is glorious. Well done!” (Sam Harris)
“Sokal-style satire on pretentious ‘gender studies.'” (Richard Dawkins)
“New academic hoax: a bogus paper on ‘the conceptual penis’ gets published in a ‘high-quality peer-reviewed’ journal.” (Steven Pinker)
“Cultural studies, including women’s studies, are particularly prone to the toxic combinations of jargon and ideology that makes for such horrible ‘scholarship.'” (Jerry Coyne)

Except that a mildly closer look shows that Boghossian and Lindsay are no Sokals, and that the hoax should actually be treated as an embarrassment for the skeptic community. Let’s do a bit of, ahem, deconstructing of the conceptual penis affair.

(i) Like the Sokal hoax, the sample size is n=1. Since Boghossian teaches critical thinking, he ought to know that pretty much nothing can be concluded from that sort of “sampling” of the relevant population. That’s why Sokal properly understood his hoax as a rhetorical success, a way to put the spotlight on the problem, not of showing anything broader than “that the editors of one rather marginal journal were derelict in their intellectual duty.”

(ii) The B&L paper was actually rejected by the first journal it was submitted to, NORMA: The International Journal for Masculinity Study. Boghossian and Lindsay admit this, but add that they were “invited” to resubmit to Cogent Social Sciences, which is handled by the same prestigious Taylor & Francis publishing group that handles NORMA. The reality is that NORMA itself doesn’t make it even on the list of top 115 publications in gender studies, which makes it an unranked journal, not a “top” one. also, if you check Cogent Social Sciences’ web site you will see that it operates independently of Taylor & Francis. Oh, fun fact: NORMA’s impact fact is a whopping zero… And remember, it actually rejected the paper.

Harsh takedown, continued said...

(iii) The “invitation” to resubmit to Cogent Social Sciences was likely an automated email directing the authors to an obvious pay-to-publish vanity journal. See if you can spot the clues from the journal’s description of their acceptance policies. First, authors are invited to “pay what they can” in order to publish their papers; second, they say they are very “friendly” to prospective authors; lastly, they say that they do not “necessarily reject” papers with no impact. Does that sound to you like a respectable outlet, in any field?

...Yes, X Studies are potentially problematic, and they probably ought to undergo academic review as a concept, as well as be subjected to sustained, external scholarly criticism. But this is absolutely not what the B&L stunt has done. Not even close.

...Let’s not forget... the fact that the pharmaceutical industry has created entire fake journals in order to publish studies “friendly” to their bottom line. And these are fields that — unlike gender studies — actually attract millions of dollars in funding and whose “research” affects people’s lives directly. But I don’t see Boghossian, Lindsay, Shermer, Dawkins, Coyne, Pinker or Harris flooding their Twitter feeds with news of the intellectual bankruptcy of biology, physics, computer science, and medicine. Why not?

Well, here is one possibility:
...“Gender Studies is primarily composed of radical ideologues who view indoctrination as their primary duty. These departments must be defunded” –Peter Boghossian, 25 April 2016

Turns out that a good number of “skeptics” are actually committed to the political cause of libertarianism. This is fine in and of itself, since we are all entitled to our political opinions. But it becomes a problem when it is used as a filter to inform your allegedly critical thinking. And it becomes particularly problematic when libertarian skeptics go on a rampage accusing others of ideological bias and calling for their defunding. Self-criticism before other-criticism, people — it’s the virtuous thing to do.