File /Humanist.vol22.txt, message 268


Date:         Fri, 17 Oct 2008 06:51:02 +0100
From: Humanist Discussion Group <willard.mccarty-AT-MCCARTY.ORG.UK>
Subject: 22.279 journals under threat
To: humanist-AT-Princeton.EDU


               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 22, No. 279.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                        www.princeton.edu/humanist/
                     Submit to: humanist-AT-princeton.edu



         Date: Fri, 17 Oct 2008 06:39:40 +0100
         From: Humanist Discussion Group <willard.mccarty-AT-mccarty.org.uk>
         Subject: [Fwd: journals under threat]



Sorry for x-posting, but I think people need to know this is likely
going on in their field too.

Journals under Threat: A Joint Response from History of Science,
Technology and Medicine Editors

We live in an age of metrics. All around us, things are being
standardized, quantified, measured. Scholars concerned with the work of
science and technology must regard this as a fascinating and crucial
practical, cultural and intellectual phenomenon. Analysis of the roots
and meaning of metrics and metrology has been a preoccupation of much of
the best work in our field for the past quarter century at least. As
practitioners of the interconnected disciplines that make up the field
of science studies we understand how significant, contingent and
uncertain can be the process of rendering nature and society in grades,
classes and numbers. We now confront a situation in which our own
research work is being subjected to putatively precise accountancy by
arbitrary and unaccountable agencies.

Some may already be aware of the proposed European Reference Index for
the Humanities (ERIH), an initiative originating with the European
Science Foundation. The ERIH is an attempt to grade journals in the
humanities - including "history and philosophy of science". The
initiative proposes a league table of academic journals, with premier,
second and third divisions. According to the European Science
Foundation, ERIH "aims initially to identify, and gain more visibility
for, top-quality European Humanities research published in academic
journals in, potentially, all European languages". It is hoped "that
ERIH will form the backbone of a fully-fledged research information
system for the Humanities". What is meant, however, is that ERIH will
provide funding bodies and other agencies in Europe and elsewhere with
an allegedly exact measure of research quality. In short, if research is
published in a premier league journal it will be recognized as first
rate; if it appears somewhere in the lower divisions, it will be rated
(and not funded) accordingly.

This initiative is entirely defective in conception and execution.
Consider the major issues of accountability and transparency. The
process of producing the graded list of journals in science studies was
overseen by a committee of four (the membership is currently listed at
http://www.esf.org/research-areas/humanities/research-
infrastructures-including-erih/erih-governance-and-panels/erih-expert-
panel s .html). This committee cannot be considered representative. It
was not selected in consultation with any of the various disciplinary
organizations that currently represent our field such as the European
Association for the History of Medicine and Health, the Society for the
Social History of Medicine, the British Society for the History of
Science, the History of Science Society, the Philosophy of Science
Association, the Society for the History of Technology or the Society
for Social Studies of Science. Journal editors were only belatedly
informed of the process and its relevant criteria or asked to provide
any information regarding their publications.

No indication hgiven of the means through which the list was compiled;
nor how it might be maintained in the future. The ERIH depends on a
fundamental misunderstanding of conduct and publication of research in
our field, and in the humanities in general. Journals' quality cannot be
separated from their contents and their review processes. Great research
may be published anywhere and in any language. Truly ground-breaking
work may be more likely to appear from marginal, dissident or unexpected
sources, rather than from a well-established and entrenched mainstream.
Our journals are various, heterogeneous and distinct. Some are aimed at
a broad, general and international readership, others are more
specialized in their content and implied audience. Their scope and
readership say nothing about the quality of their intellectual content.
The ERIH, on the other hand, confuses internationality with quality in a
way that is particularly prejudicial to specialist and non-English
language journals.

In a recent report, the British Academy, with judicious understatement,
concludes that "the European Reference Index for the Humanities as
presently conceived does not represent a reliable way in which metrics
of peer-reviewed publications can be constructed" (Peer Review: the
Challenges for the Humanities and Social Sciences, September 2007:
http://www.britac.ac.uk/reports/peer-review). Such exercises as ERIH can
become self- fulfilling prophecies. If such measures as ERIH are adopted
as metrics by funding and other agencies, then many in our field will
conclude that they have little choice other than to limit their
publications to journals in the premier division. We will sustain fewer
journals, much less diversity and impoverish our discipline. Along with
many others in our field, this Journal has concluded that we want no
part of this dangerous and misguided exercise. This joint Editorial is
being published in journals across the fields of history of science and
science studies as an expression of our collective dissent and our
refusal to allow our field to be managed and appraised in this fashion.
We have asked the compilers of the ERIH to remove our journals' titles
from their lists.

Hanne Andersen (Centaurus)
Roger Ariew & Moti Feingold (Perspectives on Science)
A. K. Bag (Indian Journal of History of Science)
June Barrow-Green & Benno van Dalen (Historia mathematica)
Keith Benson (History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences)
Marco Beretta (Nuncius)
Michel Blay (Revue d'Histoire des Sciences)
Cornelius Borck (Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte)
Geof Bowker and Susan Leigh Star (Science, Technology and Human Values)
Massimo Bucciantini & Michele Camerota (Galilaeana: Journal of Galilean
Studies)
Jed Buchwald and Jeremy Gray (Archive for History of Exacft Sciences)
Vincenzo Cappelletti & Guido Cimino (Physis)
Roger Cline (International Journal for the History of Engineering &
Technology)
Stephen Clucas & Stephen Gaukroger (Intellectual History Review)
Hal Cook & Anne Hardy (Medical History)
Leo Corry, Alexandre Métraux & Jürgen Renn (Science in Context)
D.Diecks & J.Uffink (Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern
Physics)
Brian Dolan & Bill Luckin (Social History of Medicine)
Hilmar Duerbeck & Wayne Orchiston (Journal of Astronomical History &
Heritage)
Moritz Epple, Mikael Hård, Hans-Jörg Rheinberger & Volker Roelcke (NTM:
Zeitschrift für
Geschichte der Wissenschaften, Technik und Medizin)
Steven French (Metascience)
Willem Hackmann (Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society)
Bosse Holmqvist (Lychnos) Paul Farber (Journal of the History of
Biology)
Mary Fissell & Randall Packard (Bulletin of the History of Medicine)
Robert Fox (Notes & Records of the Royal Society)
Jim Good (History of the Human Sciences)
Michael Hoskin (Journal for the History of Astronomy)
Ian Inkster (History of Technology)
Marina Frasca Spada (Studies in History and Philosophy of Science)
Nick Jardine (Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and
Biomedical
Sciences)
Trevor Levere (Annals of Science)
Bernard Lightman (Isis)
Christoph Lüthy (Early Science and Medicine)
Michael Lynch (Social Studies of Science)
Stephen McCluskey & Clive Ruggles (Archaeostronomy: the Journal of
Astronomy in
Culture)
Peter Morris (Ambix)
E. Charles Nelson (Archives of Natural History)
Ian Nicholson (Journal of the History of the Behavioural Sciences)
Iwan Rhys Morus (History of Science)
John Rigden & Roger H Stuewer (Physics in Perspective)
Simon Schaffer (British Journal for the History of Science)
Paul Unschuld (Sudhoffs Archiv)
Peter Weingart (Minerva)
Stefan Zamecki (Kwartalnik Historii Nauki i Techniki)

Viviane Quirke
RCUK Academic Fellow in twentieth-century Biomedicine
Secretary of the BSHS
Centre for Health, Medicine and Society
Oxford Brookes University


   

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