The Academy is Broken Stories

Are all these papers just bricks in a wall?

There is considerable agreement that an emphasis on quantity of publication is distorting the production and dissemination of scholarship. We should also consider the extent to which such incentives act as actual barriers to the acquisition of knowledge. In my own work, I find it increasingly difficult to wrap my head around a new problem by consulting a few seminal papers; rather, I have to spend ever-increasing effort keeping up with an ever-broadening universe of fragmented publication. Meanwhile, our disciplinary "reviewing" processes are far more focused the generation of new knowledge, and far less on the traditional notion of "reviewing": namely, summarizing and synthesizing the current state of a problem or field. Consider the difference in prestige normally attached to "reviewed article" vs. "review article": in many disciplines, a review article is considered far less significant, despite requiring at least as much scholarship to produce. I'd argue that the academy (both traditional and emerging) needs to place far more value on activities like synthesis reviewing, in order to ensure that the flood of scholarly information remains navigable.

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Idea No. 66