Recently read… (10-16 February)

Another week’s worth of articles, news and posts…

Case of the month

Every month, the Committee On Publication Ethics (COPE), an authoritative forum of journal editors, publishes a report summarising its activities. This month’s report features an interesting case of academic misconduct:

What can an editor do when another journal refuses to follow the correct procedures for retraction? An author contacted the editor informing him that a paper he had published in their journal had been published, word for word, in another journal (journal X). The editor followed the appropriate COPE flowchart and contacted the editor of journal X. The editor of journal X said he would publish a retraction in September 2011, but a year later, the paper is still available in an internet search. Is there anything else the editor can do?

Some good news

Far be it from me to give undue praise to the Coalition, but it appears that Her Majesty’s government is set to increase the science and research budget. The resource budget is set to rise to £4.7 billion (a 2.5% increase), an increase that is is -more or less- in line with inflation figures. More importantly, the research capital budget will increase to £1.1 billion , i.e. double the current levels. Sir Paul Nurse, the Royal Society president, is quoted as saying that:

In tough economic times we have seen relative protection for the science budget which is very welcome. However, other countries are investing more so we cannot be complacent. With signs of economic recovery it must be hoped that the chancellor will see the opportunity to further invest in knowledge, the seed corn for sustained future growth.

“Chalk up another victory to the human spirit”

I recently tweeted a link to a visualisation showing which schools in the US taught creationist narratives alongside scientific accounts of evolution, remarking that it was quite scary. What is even scarier is that such …relativism does not seem to be prompted by a libertarian attitude of respect towards religious sensitivities, but is rather an outcome of very poor understanding of what science is. To wit, here’s what a US Senator had to say, in defence of his decision to block references to ‘natural selection’ from the South Carolina curriculum:

“Natural selection is a direct reference to Darwinism,” [Senator] Fair said after the meeting. […] “To teach that natural selection is the answer to origins is wrong,” Fair said. “I don’t have a problem with teaching theories. I don’t think it should be taught as fact.”

Defending tenure: a conservative perspective

Complaints against the adjunctification and commercialisation of higher education are commonplace, in ‘lefty’ rhetoric in particular. This article, by Peter Augustine Lawler, is an interesting exception as it’s basic premise is that “tenure is a fundamentally conservative institution—one that deserves to be defended”. Among other thought-provoking points, the author points out that in the absence of job certainty, professors are likely to experiment with various fads of dubious educational value (“retool according to the techno-standards devised by disruptive experts”). He goes on to argue:

It’s the conservative professor critical of the effects of the techno-optimization who’s most likely to fail to respond productively to such incentives. […] Liberals and libertarians may often view conservative resistance to measurable productivity as “reactionary,” but the same such reaction is indispensable for defending liberal education against disruption, and for preserving a place for higher education as more than preparation for the marketplace.

Call for abstracts

In a recent post, I quoted someone as saying that if you’re not getting enough rejections, you aren’t aiming high enough. Experienced scholars will already know how to boost this particular metric by submitting to the Journal of Universal Rejection. Those of us who prefer conferencing as an outlet for the dissemination of scholarly information, will be happy to know that the Conference of Universal Rejection (link no longer active) is due to take place this August:

We are accepting abstracts for talks. Please submit to Talks can be on any topic, in any format, any length. Presenters must provide their own slide or A/V projectors and power source. All submissions will be rejected. Furthermore, we may post your name, abstract, and our rejection publicly at the blog Reprobatio Certa (link no longer active).

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