Week 11 – Peer Review

I think that both The Social Text and Sokal are complicit in the degradation of scientific principles.  That is a harsh statement I should explain, both parties had the best interest at heart: The Social Text providing an outlet for scientific exchange to help foster creativity and inspiration for further research, where as Sokal wanted to address bias and non-regulation over scientific publications. Does their intent justify the impact that they had?


Sokal was right in voicing a concern over practices which he felt were inappropriate, and pushing for the principal of more objective scientific rigor, he could have gone about it in a more diplomatic way. Instead of explaining that his article was a farce through another publication he could have spoken to The Social Text directly after being published. In addition, he himself did not follow the scientific method by submitting the article to another peer reviewed journal as a control, a point which was raised in class. I might understand if the incident has occurred in present day where information is so widely accessibly (thanks to the internet) any may not be scrutinized for it’s validity or source.


The Social Text is also at fault for it’s practices in the way it published materials. I don’t believe that any material should be openly accepted without first having gone through some sort of review. Allowing for external input would do nothing but strengthen the credibility of the journals and of the articles published within, and decreases the pitfall of becoming self referential. Perhaps they were just naive and to some extent were being taking advantage of by those who chose to publish with them. They accepted Sokal’s work based on his academic standing and had no reason to question is integrity or motives.


I think it is good to questions what is presented to us, to not hold one idea as an absolute truth while humoring others. When using the scientific method, you come up with an idea and then immediately try to prove that it wrong, the null hypothesis, before coming to the conclusion that it may be right. (I may be paraphrasing Richard Dawkins but I cannot recall a source).


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