Sokal Affair

I think when discussing peer review, many people are very quick to talk about the negatives (yes, there are many). However, the Sokal Affair is an example of why peer review is necessary.

In 1996, Social Text (the name of the journal) did not conduct peer review because its editors believed that an open editorial policy would stimulate more original, less conventional research. Fair enough… But looked what happened. They published an article that was absolute non-sense. 

The editors said they considered it poorly written but published it because they felt Sokal was an academic seeking their intellectual affirmation, which exemplifies the potential bias of these journals.

I think with anything, there’s going to be pros and cons. I think when critiquing anything we must keep in mind the pros, and use the cons to make whatever we are critiquing better.

Victoria Grant 

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Sokal Affair

  1. Hey Victoria,

    I wonder with corporate research and intellectual property becoming so much more prominent in today’s society, do you think that there are those out there that are purposely submitting information they know to be wrong to divert competing research from infringing on their own works? Eg. Someone told me about how their cooking was never as good as their mom’s only to find out that their mother had given them incorrect recipes so that hers would always taste better.

    It is sad that I would entertain that thought, but if such actions are taking place then peer-reviewing is essential in ensuring that the information that is being published is accurate. Just a thought.

    • Hey Hamid,

      Very good point. However I’m a little confused as to how they would go about submitting false information. If they did this, would it not be under their academic name?

      I wouldn’t be surprised if someone of this sort happened occasionally though! It seems as though it is similar to one big competition, and I’m competitions people cheat and lie just so they can “win”.

      Victoria Grant

    • jbake006

      That’s a really interesting idea, Hamid. I can see such a thing happening in a world of infinite possibilities, though I am unsure how they would go about doing it. It certainly would be important to have some form of rigorous review process in place to deal with such issues if such situations ever did begin to happen.
      Do you think there would be a better method than peer review to deal with intentionally bogus research?

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