The Evaluation in the Republic of Science. From peer review to open soft peer review

Di Donato, Francesca (2008) The Evaluation in the Republic of Science. From peer review to open soft peer review. In: Open Scholarly Communities on the Web: The Legal, Economic and Social Framework, 22 aprile 2008, Oxford, UK. (Unpublished)


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“No university teacher likes to be reminded of discussions of appointments, for they are seldom agreeable. And yet I may say that in the numerous cases known to me there was, without exception, the good will to allow purely objective reasons to be decisive. However, the decision over academic fates is too often largely a 'hazard'”. In his well-known lecture Wissenschaft als Beruf (1918), Science as a Vocation, Max Weber underlined the limitations of an appointment procedure based on building consensus among peers. However, his reflection can also be interpreted as a specific instance of the more general problem of the relationship between objectivity and evaluation. In his lecture, Weber sees Science as both a vocation and a profession. His analysis starts from the differences and analogies of the career and retirement system in German and American universities, which he considers respectively “plutocratic” and bureaucratic. This presentation isn't focused on studying appointment procedures but rather scholarly peer review. Hence, the link with the arguments of the German sociologist, may not appear so evident at a first sight. However, it suddenly becomes visible if we consider the topic from a philosophical and sociological point of view. From this perspective, peer review procedures are clearly connected both to the role of science within the academia and its influence on the society in general. A reflection on evaluation procedures involves scientific and moral issues concerning knowledge production and its dissemination. It also involves careers, funding and the basic structure of the “Republic of Science” itself. The reviewing procedures used today are almost exclusively based on the good will of the reviewers to keep the evaluation on an objective ground. A premise that I consider, like Weber does, largely insufficient and hazardous. This presentation has three objectives: – Firstly, it aims at clarifying the motivations and the historical context that led to the birth of peer review. – Secondly, it aims at reflecting, from a political philosophy perspective, on the impact of evaluation procedures on the government of the Republic of Science. To put it in simple terms: Is the Republic of Science a proper Republic? Which form of government should be chosen for an Open Scholarly Community on the web? – Thirdly, it aims at proposing a novel approach to peer review that could be adopted in Open Scholarly Communities on the Web. I call this approach “open soft peer review”.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)
Subjects: Dip. Scienze della Politica > Filosofia Politica
Filosofia > Miscellany of philosophy > Filosofia Politica
Filosofia > Modern Western philosophy > Filosofia Politica
Depositing User: Francesca Di Donato
Date Deposited: 09 May 2009
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2010 09:01

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