Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Another bloggy dilemma

Let's say you go to your mailbox one day and find that you've been sent a manuscript to review for a journal in your field. And the mixture of excitement and aversion springs up: will this be good, or will it stink? Will it be a pleasure or a pain? But because you know that out of all the many manuscripts you've ever reviewed for various journals, only two or three have actually ever seen their way to publication, you suspect this one may also be only so so, and you settle in to being ok with that.

So you open the large envelope, scan the title. And recognition pops up. You skim the pages, and the more you skim, the more you're convinced you've seen this, some of this, before.

You're pretty sure this manuscript is something you've read about on a blog. Maybe you've even read bits of it in a fledgling stage on a blog. Maybe not. You can't be sure. And you resist the urge to go immediately to search the blog in question. You think you're better off not knowing.

Because it's all supposed to be anonymous, right? But, you think, surely this must happen all the time. Not the blogging part, but the moment of recognition. Especially with manuscripts by people whose work is widely known in the field. It isn't like being an impartial jurist, is it?

And so, my blogging friends, I ask you: has this ever happened to you? Suppose, just suppose, it did. Would you tell the editor? Would you just read and respond, since it's always possible you're wrong? (Even though you're about 99% sure you're right.)

Because bias is present, I can tell you that. My so-so assumption immediatly jumped to the "this is going to be good" assumption.

And if you read this and wonder if the MS might be yours: my lips are sealed.


dhawhee said...

That's a tough one, but I can tell you that I had a similar experience and did confirm that some of the material (though not the argument of this particular piece) was on a blog I read on occasion, but later found out I was DEAD WRONG about the author. How did I find that out? Why, the journal editors left all the identifying information. I didn't right click on it, thankfully, until after I'd sent back my review.

Donna said...

That's instructive: I could be dead wrong, too! One can always hope...

jeff said...

Only a problem in certain situations: a spouse, a student, etc. "Knowing" someone or recognizing the person should not be a problem. If anything, it is a sign that you are aware of who people are and what they do. Otherwise, you'd be an academic hermit, and what good would your comments be? The only other reason to say something would be if you really hate/dislike this person and you just can't read the work without these feelings surfacing. But bias? We all have it, for good or for bad. No reason to pretend otherwise.

Donna said...

You're right, of course, Jeff. I guess my concern was somehow being "found out"--so I blogged about it to see if anyone cares. Doesn't seem that anyone does much. So I'll stop worrying.

Clancy said...

There's also the matter of writing samples that accompany job applications. I applied for forty jobs this year and sent writing samples to roughly half of those. I was thinking, between that and my blog, blind review will not exist for any of my work, really.

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