FW: Journals under Threat: A Joint Response from History of Science, Technology and Medicine Editors

Loet Leydesdorff loet at LEYDESDORFF.NET
Wed Oct 1 07:23:31 EDT 2008

Fyi. Loet

-----Original Message-----
From: H-NET List on the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology
[mailto:H-SCI-MED-TECH at H-NET.MSU.EDU] On Behalf Of Christophe Lecuyer
Sent: 30 September 2008 11:33 PM

From:    Finn Arne Jørgensen <finn.arne.jorgensen at gmail.com>
Date:    Tue, September 30, 2008 2:31 pm

Journals under Threat: A Joint Response from History of Science,
Technology and Medicine Editors

We live in an age of metrics. All around us, things are being
standardized, quantified, measured. Scholars concerned with the work of
science and technology must regard this as a fascinating and crucial
practical, cultural and intellectual phenomenon.  Analysis of the roots
and meaning of metrics and metrology has been a preoccupation of much of
the best work in our field for the past quarter century at least. As
practitioners of the interconnected disciplines that make up the field of
science studies  we understand how significant, contingent and uncertain
can be the process of rendering nature and society in grades, classes and
numbers.   We now confront a situation in which our own research work is
being subjected to putatively precise accountancy by arbitrary and
unaccountable agencies. Some may already be aware of the proposed European
Reference Index for the Humanities  (ERIH), an initiative originating with
the European Science Foundation. The ERIH is an attempt to grade journals
in the humanities - including "history and philosophy of science". The
initiative proposes a league table of academic journals, with premier,
second and third divisions. According to the European Science Foundation,
ERIH "aims initially to identify, and gain more visibility for,
top-quality European Humanities research published in academic journals
in, potentially, all European languages". It is hoped "that ERIH will form
the backbone of a fully-fledged research information system for the
Humanities". What is meant, however, is that ERIH will provide funding
bodies and other agencies in Europe and elsewhere with an allegedly  exact
measure of research quality. In short, if research is published in a
premier league journal it will be recognized as first rate; if it appears
somewhere in the lower divisions, it will be rated(and not funded)
accordingly.   This initiative is entirely defective in conception and
execution. Consider the major issues of accountability and transparency.
The process of producing the graded list of  journals in science studies
was overseen by a committee of four (the membership is
currently listed at http://www.esf.org/research-areas/humanities/research-
panels.html). This committee cannot be considered representative. It was
not selected in consultation with any of the various disciplinary
organizations that currently represent our field such as the European
Association for the History of Medicine and Health,  the Society for the
Social History of Medicine, the British Society for the History of
Science, the History of Science Society, the Philosophy of Science
Association, the Society for the History of Technology or the Society for
Social Studies of Science. Journal editors were only belatedly informed of
the process and its relevant criteria or asked to provide any information
regarding their publications. No indication was given of the means through
which the list was compiled; nor how it might be  maintained in the
future.  The ERIH depends on a fundamental misunderstanding of conduct and
publication of  research in our field, and in the humanities in general.
Journals' quality cannot be separated from their contents and their review
processes. Great research may be published anywhere and in any language.
Truly ground-breaking work may be more likely to appear from marginal,
dissident or unexpected sources, rather than from a well-established and
entrenched mainstream journal. Our journals are various, heterogeneous and
distinct. Some are aimed at a broad, general and international readership,
others are more specialized in their content and implied audience. Their
scope and readership say nothing about the quality of their intellectual
content. The ERIH, on  the other hand, confuses internationality with
quality in a way that is particularly prejudicial to specialist and
non-English language journals. In a recent report, the British Academy,
with judicious understatement, concludes that "the European Reference
Index for the Humanities as presently conceived does not represent a
reliable way in which metrics of peer-reviewed publications can be
constructed" (Peer Review: the Challenges for the Humanities and Social
Sciences, September  2007: http://www.britac.ac.uk/reports/peer-review).
Such exercises as ERIH can become self- fulfilling prophecies. If such
measures as ERIH are adopted as metrics by funding and other agencies,
then many in our field will conclude that they have little choice other
than to limit their publications to journals in the premier division. We
will sustain fewer journals, much less diversity and impoverish our
discipline. Along with many others in our field, this Journal has
concluded that we want no part of this dangerous and misguided exercise.
This joint Editorial is being published in journals across the fields of
history of science and science studies as an expression of  our collective
dissent and our refusal to allow our field to be managed and appraised in
this fashion. We have asked the compilers of the ERIH to remove our
journals' titles from their lists.

Hanne Andersen (Centaurus)
Roger Ariew & Moti Feingold (Perspectives on Science)
A. K. Bag (Indian Journal of History of Science)
June Barrow-Green & Benno van Dalen (Historia mathematica)
Keith Benson (History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences)
Marco Beretta (Nuncius)
Michel Blay (Revue d'Histoire des Sciences)
Cornelius Borck (Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte)
Geof Bowker and Susan Leigh Star (Science, Technology and Human Values)
Massimo Bucciantini & Michele Camerota (Galilaeana: Journal of Galilean
Jed Buchwald and Jeremy Gray (Archive for History of Exacft Sciences)
Vincenzo Cappelletti & Guido Cimino (Physis)
Roger Cline (International Journal for the History of Engineering &
Stephen Clucas & Stephen Gaukroger (Intellectual History Review)
Hal Cook & Anne Hardy (Medical History)
Leo Corry, Alexandre Métraux & Jürgen Renn (Science in Context)
D.Diecks & J.Uffink (Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern
Brian Dolan & Bill Luckin (Social History of Medicine)
Hilmar Duerbeck & Wayne Orchiston (Journal of Astronomical History &
Moritz Epple, Mikael Hård, Hans-Jörg Rheinberger & Volker Roelcke (NTM:
Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Wissenschaften, Technik und Medizin)
Steven French (Metascience)
Willem Hackmann (Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society)
Bosse Holmqvist (Lychnos)
Paul Farber (Journal of the History of  Biology)
Mary Fissell & Randall Packard (Bulletin of the History of Medicine)
Robert Fox (Notes & Records of the Royal Society)
Jim Good (History of the Human Sciences)
Michael Hoskin (Journal for the History of Astronomy)
Ian Inkster (History of Technology)
Marina Frasca Spada (Studies in History and Philosophy of Science)
Nick Jardine (Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and
Biomedical Sciences)
Trevor Levere (Annals of Science)
Bernard Lightman (Isis)
Christoph Lüthy (Early Science and Medicine)
Michael Lynch (Social Studies of Science)
Stephen McCluskey & Clive Ruggles (Archaeostronomy: the Journal of
Astronomy in Culture)
Peter Morris (Ambix)
E. Charles Nelson (Archives of Natural History)
Ian Nicholson (Journal of the History of the Behavioural Sciences)
Iwan Rhys Morus (History of Science)
John Rigden & Roger H Stuewer (Physics in Perspective)
Simon Schaffer (British Journal for the History of Science)
Paul Unschuld (Sudhoffs Archiv)
Peter Weingart (Minerva)
Stefan Zamecki (Kwartalnik Historii Nauki i Techniki)

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