Sunday, 16 November 2014

Why no references?

I am writing for the reader. This blog is not being written for a peer reviewed journal. The peer review process involves editorial boards of specialist around the topics covered in a journal who may also ask other super-specialists for their thoughts. There is an old saying that academics learn more and more about less and less until they know very little about anything. Whilst often used in a derogatory way, this is about the breadth and depth of knowledge - as depth increases breadth tends to reduce somewhat. Specialisation can have its consequences where not reading out side the field can narrow the perspective 

Anyway, little leeway is allowed in journal editorial circles for anything other than fairly strict logic. Other peoples work must be extensively referenced. Supporting facts must be referenced. Conclusions drawn must stick to the known facts etc etc Of course, this will not completely stop biases ie people may selectively cite references that support their views. It will not completely stop denial ( ie disbelief can prevent publication or data may be ignored with alternative explannations sought). However, it is the best filtering system that academic humans have been able to come up with.

Peer reviewed journals are important. But, trying to turn a blog into a peer reviewed journal will greatly reduce readability and clarity . References can be mis-used as well. Someone (Dan John, I think) once said that you should not believe everything you read on the internet. A single reference or a stack of references doesn't necessarily make a particular statement correct. However, broader criteria can help. Might post about that at some stage.

Read critically, make your own checks. Using Google you can do that far more easily than in any time in history. Like you I'm a space digital age person living in a stone age body. Today, I can check something out in a few minutes. Decades ago I can remember having to travel to libraries, interlibrary loans, trips to bookshops etc to try and find information. That same basic "lets check that out" process would take days if you were lucky and hit the jackpot. If you were unlucky it would take weeks or longer if it turned out to be a slog. The point is that you should make your own checks just as you should be about anything else on the internet.

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