Academic Insults II: Nasty Reviews

5 July 2006 at 2:05 pm 8 comments

| Nicolai Foss |

My earlier post on Academic Insults attracted quite a lot of views, and some comments, including some comments detailing insults that I allegedly distributed (of which I, of course, have no recollection whatsoever). I also received mails from people who didn’t want to share the insults they had suffered with the blogosphere. Anyway, here is what almost amounts to a sequel, namely one on formalized academic insults, better known as nasty reviews. 

In 1989 I submitted my first paper to a journal, specifically to the Journal of Management. I have forgotten why I submitted to this particular journal, but I suppose I liked the name (!), and I had at any rate no idea that this journal was already at that time an established and rather highly reputed journal (I probably had no notion that there was such a thing as a journal hierarchy).  Anyway, 2 months later, I received a report that began: “This extremely rambling paper asserts…”.  It took a couple of days to fully recover.

One of the best known economists in Europe (and I believe the most productive one), told me that he had once received a report from the Journal of Political Economy which was admirably sparse and to the point: “Utterly without value.”  He somehow later found out that the reviewer was George Stigler.  

A colleague here at Copenhagen Business School submitted a paper a few years back to the Strategic Management Journal.  The paper was written with one of the pioneers of the TCE approach to the multinational corporation (aka “internationalization theory”), and was as far as I could gauge a very solid piece of research. Still, the only report that was returned from the editorial offices began: “This is the worst paper I have ever read.”  One need not speculate about the outcome of the editorial decision-making.

Entry filed under: - Foss -, Ephemera.

Evidence for “Selfish Genes”? Information versus Knowledge

8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Teppo  |  5 July 2006 at 2:25 pm

    I got a negative journal review on a paper saying it was too “preachy” (still deconstructing that one).

  • 2. Robert Millard  |  6 July 2006 at 5:40 am

    Then there are those that have something vaguely positive followed by “but” and then something pointedly negative. Which means that everything before the “but” was a lie.

  • 3. Fabio Rojas  |  6 July 2006 at 2:50 pm

    Here are some zingers from my files:

    “You don’t know what love is.” [in response to a game theory paper on sexual behavior]

    The paper is “banal and offensive” [same paper]

    “This is why I hate rational choice theory!!!” [same paper, comment yelled during conference presentation]

    “My friends would disagree with your analysis.” [?? – different paper, don’t see why your friends are relevant]

    “We agree the conclusions are logically supported by the data, but we still disagree with them.”

    “Why did you choose new academic programs in unviversity as examples of organizational change?” [this is still a mystery to me…]

    And from a written evaluation of my performance in a musical competition I participated in as an undergraduate:

    “The performer’s solo is completely devoid of musical character.”

  • 4. Donald A. Coffin  |  6 July 2006 at 3:55 pm

    Last week, at a conference, one of the discussants said he was going to borrow the framework of someone he’d heard earlier: “There are only two things I don’t like about this paper–the model and the empirical work.”

  • 5. JC  |  7 July 2006 at 9:19 am

    Many years ago I submitted a paper about the role that theory plays/played in the evolution of management education. I was awarded a dismissive “Where’s the theory in this?”

    My guess was the reviewer had done no more than skim the paper for some statistical findings which, being absent, proved that the paper failed to conform to his/her narrow view of scholarship.

    We should lose no opportunity to point out that a field that admits but one methodology is dead in all but fact, maintained like an accident-site shrine to something that once happened by a dedicated priesthood that has withdrawn from everyday life.

  • 6. Toxic Personalities » Professorial toxicity  |  19 July 2006 at 8:55 pm

    […] Organizations and Markets shares this gem: Anyway, 2 months later, I received a report that began: “This extremely rambling paper asserts…”.  It took a couple of days to fully recover. […]

  • 7. The tired academic  |  19 December 2010 at 7:13 am

    When I handed the most recent chapter of my PhD into my supervisor he asked me; “were you tired when you wrote this?”

    Inspiring stuff…

  • 8. JC Spender  |  19 December 2010 at 3:10 pm

    The last post is interestingly different, of course, because, aside from pulling us back into a 2006 thread, ‘the tired academic’ knew who was making the comment.

    All of which raises, once again, the distinction between critical comments made under the mask of anonymity and those made openly, as when yelled at a conference.

    Given that our discipline has almost completely abandoned the traditional art of academic critique (see the squabble between Alchian and Penrose in the AER for one of the finest examples), it seems to me that we should not damn reviewers’ comments as egregious examples of power without responsibility when the real issue is their invisibility.

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