Letters – 6 December 2018

December 6, 2018

Effort to publish damned by review process

Ronald Barnett offered some suggestions on how to conduct journal reviews with integrity in his article “Where are the ethics in academic publishing?” (Opinion, 1 December). Sound advice such as his is sorely needed, as I can attest given my own article submission horror story (which apparently is not that unusual).

As a junior academic working towards tenure, I submitted a paper to a very reputable journal. I had to wait 11 months to receive the review. In the meantime, I contacted the editor two or three times. My entreaties were considered to be nagging, and it was suggested that if I did not like the process, I could always withdraw my manuscript (unlikely, as my university puts pressure on academics to publish in elite journals).

After 11 months, the decision came: substantial review and resubmit. I was given only one month in the middle of a teaching semester to accomplish this. I begged for more time. I eventually got three months. I redid my paper fundamentally according to the reviewers’ suggestions. I resubmitted. I waited six months more for review and then a final decision…rejection. Over the intervening period, the editor had changed and so had the reviewers.

I felt badly treated. Major depression resulted. Sadly, this is just one aspect of publishing with the so-called reputable journals.

Via timeshighereducation.com

Survey surfeit

One contribution to the feature about what single change would most transform university practice focuses on the use of student data (“The big idea”, 29 November).

Given the many surveys and performance assessment measurements that are cited, I cannot understand why students would submit to this never-ending experimentation. Ceding valuable study time to complete myriad surveys is a considerable waste of time. Of course, students are told that as fee-paying customers, they must comment on all these vital university strategies and activities, but it’s just a con. I’m surprised that no student has suggested a boycott of the neoliberal university’s predilection for data collection and busybody surveys to service their box-ticking endeavours.

Via timeshighereducation.com

IQ’s positive points

In the feature “An acid test for IQ” (29 November), Kenneth Richardson tells us of “the dark, ideological side of IQ testing: its roots in the eugenics movement”.

Why not just consider for a moment the positive work of its pioneers, such as Sir Godfrey Hilton Thomson (1881-1955)? He worked to develop tests that were not simply measures of past learning so that rural school children could go on to appropriate secondary education. Sir Cyril Ludowic Burt (1883-1971) was also keen to see as many working-class children as possible benefit from a selective education.

R. E. Rawles
Honorary research fellow in psychology

CDTs in the round

The news story “Social science doctoral training centres not working, says report” (26 November) focuses on claims that centres for doctoral training (as they are called now)are ineffective and unsustainable.

The article should have highlighted that CDTs have both good points and bad points.

In their favour, they bring students together as a cohort, which makes them feel less isolated and allows them to learn from each other.

The centres can cultivate input from and ties with external partners such as charities, industry and government. And they can be used to force change on issues such as diversity.

As for points against, only a handful of big universities get many CDTs. Most (even in the Russell Group) will get one or two.

However, universities are diverse places, and forcing all academics who want to take on PhD students to do research into, say, “ageing” or “big data” could potentially be destructive to the breadth and diversity of the research effort. This effect is clearly greater on universities lower down the food chain, which receive fewer or no CDTs but which may have important pockets of research excellence.

Patrick Degenaar
Via timeshighereducation.com

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