Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 13, No. 455.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
Date: Wed, 01 Mar 2000 08:14:33 +0000
From: Willard McCarty <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: quality-control in humanities computing
Allow me to pose the following hypothetical situation called to mind by
recent involvement in reviewing paper proposals. It is NOT a situation I
have faced in quite the form described, but it does illustrate a problem I
think we face.
A paper is submitted to a humanities computing conference by person Z for
review, in which method X is applied to subject area Y. The reviewer, who
is sufficiently familiar with Y to know good work from bad, can see that
the results of Z's analysis do not by remotest stretch justify acceptance
of the paper. Z's articulation of method X is, however, very interesting --
unquestionably enough to justify acceptance. Let us say for the purpose of
argument that if Z were to submit this paper to a conference in subject Y
it would certainly be rejected; perhaps Z knows this. The conference
considering the paper is, however, a humanities computing conference. What
does the reviewer do?
On the one hand, unquestioning acceptance would mean putting incompetent
work into circulation, with potential loss of prestige for the conference
and a false boost to a questionable career; making a habit of this, one
fears, could make the conference into a dumping ground for bad scholarship.
On the other hand, taking a hard line would mean loss to the conference of
work precisely in its area (methodology) on grounds beyond the official
bounds of its competence; one could argue that if the method were very
good, the chances of admitting a flood of such papers would be nil in any
case. Is there a middle ground?
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Dr. Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer, King's College London
voice: +44 (0)171 848 2784 fax: +44 (0)171 848 5081
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