Friday, March 07, 2014

The Critic and the Troll, part 3

The discussion continues. Brayden has posted an explanation of his moderation over at orgtheory and there's been some interesting conversation in the comments to Andrew's post. There are at least three important things to take away from this incident.

The first is the one that Amanda Sharkey makes clear. Having a paper discussed after publication is an important formative experience for scholars. Personally, I was surprised at all the concern that was being shown for the "junior" scholars—after all, they held perfectly good academic posts and just published in a very good journal. They had even received attention from the major media. From that position, it shouldn't be hard to listen to (and, if need be, ignore) a few critics and/or trolls.

I think it's correct, as one commenter pointed out, that no one has an "obligation" to respond to all post-publication criticism. The game is a bit different: once published, anyone is in a position to comment (on a blog or whatever) and so the paper simply has to co-exist with whatever published commentary there is. In some cases, the lack of response would actually be embarrassing for the original author. A good example is when an author is accused of plagiarism and the evidence is pretty conclusive. Even if it's just a blog post that makes the accusation, you don't want to be the author who just ignores it. You need to step up. But it's always your choice. The fact that the criticism exists is just that, a fact. Certainly, no reader has an obligation not to comment just because the author shouldn't be inconvenienced by having to respond.

The second is something that a few people have mentioned, namely, the willingness to discuss things on the condition that it's done in a "respectful" way. Those of us who've been around academia for a while know that you won't always find this condition satisfied. And it's best to learn to deal with a little snark now and then.

Finally, there's a great comment by Steve Morgan on the value and importance of the 15-minute read of a paper. While you can always hope that people form their opinions of your work on the basis of hours of reading a paper you've written, please keep in mind that a good paper will also make a good first impression.

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