Peer-review

Emma Conan: "The problem with peer review". 26.07.2016.

Emma Coonan considers the research process linked to the roll of the peer reviewer, the evaluator of the piece of information, in her blog post ‘The problem with peer review’ (extract below).

We generally start out by imagining that the goal of research is to discover the truth or find the answer - as though ‘Truth’ is a simple, singular entity that’s lying concealed out there, waiting to be for us to unearth it. And many of us experience frustration and dismay at university as a direct result of this way of thinking. We learn, slowly, that the goal of a research study is not to ‘find out the truth’, nor even to find out ‘a’ truth. It’s to test the validity of a hypothesis under certain conditions. Research will never let us say “This is what we know”, but only “This is what we believe - for now”.

Research doesn’t solve problems and say we can close the book on them. Rather it frames problems in new ways, which give rise to further questions, debate, discussion and further research. Occasionally these new ways of framing problems can painfully disrupt our entire understanding of the world. Yet once we understand that knowledge is a fluid construct created by communities, not a buried secret waiting for us to discover, then we also come to understand that there can be no last word in research: it is, rather, an ongoing conversation.

The real problem with peer review is that we’ve elevated it to a status it can’t legitimately occupy. We’ve tried to turn it into a truth guarantee, a kind of kitemark of veracity, but in doing so we’ve shut our eyes to the reality that truth in research is a shifting and slippery beast.

Ultimately, we don’t get to outsource evaluation: it’s up to each one of us to make the judgement on how far a study is valid, authoritative, and relevant.

David Gobblar: "Why Students Hate Peer Review". 01.03.2017.

Your students are not expert readers. You can't expect them to be able to evaluate their peers' writing consistently or helpfully.

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