I'll never forget what's-his-name

May 30, 2013

Professor Rooney tackles the categorical imperative

Members of our university have enthusiastically joined in the new Times Higher Education online game of discovering celebrity names among members of staff.

But whereas many of the names cited in last week’s Scholarly Web column - Mark E. Smith, Keith Richards, Andrew Marr and Maggie Smith - are associated with one or other form of show business, the roll call of the famous at Poppleton turns out to be considerably more eclectic.

We can boast a Dr Boris Karloff, currently working as a laboratory demonstrator in the Department of Experimental Neuroscience, and a Professor Wayne Rooney, who handles the Kantian component of our philosophy degree, but we must turn to management for the most resonant namechecks.

It is here that we find our affable Head of Staff Restructuring, Tomás “Tom” Torquemada, our highly personable Risk Assessment Officer, Bernard “Bernie” Madoff, and, of course, our ever popular Head of Town-Gown Relationships, Ivan IV of Russia.

Not everyone at Poppleton, however, is willing to enter into the spirit of the game. Indeed, the entire enterprise has been described as “a dangerously immature way of avoiding the harsh realities of contemporary higher education” by our current Head of Environmental Studies, Rupert Bear.


‘Dear John. About your article’

Hot on the heels of last week’s revelations from Adrian Furnham, professor of psychology at University College London, about the arbitrariness of editorial decision-making on academic journals, comes news that one of our own academic editors has been asked to stand down in the wake of complaints from a scholar who had submitted an MS for publication.

According to our investigative reporter Keith Ponting (30), the complaints have been lodged against Professor Lapping, head of our Department of Media and Cultural Studies, who currently edits four major journals: The British Journal of Media Studies, The Journal of British Media Studies, The Media Journal of British Studies and The British Journal of British Media Journal Studies.

It appears that, in acknowledging the submission of an article for publication in one of these journals, Professor Lapping accidentally included in his reply what was apparently a personal checklist of reasons for rejection, which he employs in his editorial decision-making. It included the following considerations:

  1. Never heard of the author.
  2. Never heard of their university.
  3. On the lengthy side of things.
  4. On the skimpy side of things.
  5. Not one of my own articles is cited.
  6. Haven’t we had enough Bourdieu to last a lifetime?
  7. The Abstract is too abstract.
  8. The Conclusion is too inconclusive.
  9. Borderline. Keep in desk drawer for a few months.
  10. Send it to good old Jeff at UCL suggesting a Reject.

Professor Lapping has rejected suggestions that this list suggests a degree of arbitrariness. “There is nothing at all arbitrary about any of these criteria,” he told Mr Ponting. “Indeed, it is ironic that I should be so accused. After all, I drew up the checklist specifically to counter earlier and equally malevolent suggestions that I decided upon which articles to send out to referees by throwing a handful of submissions into the air and choosing those that landed face down.”


Thought for the week

(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)

To mark the beginning of the finals marking period, next week’s seminar will be devoted to a discussion of the newly discovered psychiatric condition, pre-traumatic stress disorder. Everybody welcome.


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