Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Jealousies and Rivalries of Academia

Isabel did not like her desk to get too cluttered, but that did not mean that it was uncluttered. In fact, most of the time there were too many papers on it, usually manuscripts that had to be sent off for peer assessment. She was not sure about the term peer assessment, even if it was the widely accepted term for a crucial stage in the publishing of journal articles. Sometimes the expression amounted to exactly that: equals looked dispassionately at papers by equals and gave their view. But Isabel had discovered that this did not always happen, and papers were consigned into the hands of their authors’ friends or enemies. This was unwitting; it was impossible for anybody to keep track of the jealousies and rivalries that riddled academia, and Isabel had to hope that she could spot the concealed agendas that lay behind outright antagonism or, more often, and more subtly, veiled antagonism: “an interesting piece, perhaps interesting enough to attract a ripple of attention.” Philosophers could be nasty, she reflected, and moral philosophers the nastiest of all.

From Alexander McCall Smith, Friends, Lovers, Chocolate (2005).

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