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MERSENNE  September 2008

MERSENNE September 2008

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Subject:

[Fwd: Journals Under Threat]

From:

Viviane Quirke <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Viviane Quirke <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 30 Sep 2008 07:54:14 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

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text/plain (148 lines)

The following was recently posted on H-ALBION, in response to a project of
the European Reference Index to rate humanities journals, and has just
been circulated on the French history and philosophy of science mailing
list Theuth, so apologies for cross-posting. However, it raises issues
that have serious implications for our field, and I believe that it is
therefore worth circulating as widely as possible.

Viviane


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-panels
.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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