Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Is Shakespeare Studies Broken??

Here are some philosophical musings on scholarly research in general. As I came across them I wondered to what extent they related to research in areas touching on Shakespeare, and of course the Authorship question. Maybe some of you wouldn’t mind pondering over the same issues.

This week there were two more fascinating articles on the crisis in science respectability. The stories have been coming out for years. It seems now though that it has come to a head and must be dealt with for the sake of the legitimacy of the scholarly enterprise. Here’s one of the recent articles:


One quote from it is that “Lots of researchers had previously believed that trying out many types of analyses was a form of rigor; they were homing in on conditions that revealed the truth of their hypotheses. In fact, researchers were gaming analyses to gain publications, albeit often unwittingly.

Another comment was that “Some experts, like Stanford’s John Ioannidis, famous for his calculations that most published research findings are false, worry that special labels for replication or negative result relegate good work into a second-class status; journals devoted entirely to negative results popped up some time ago, but many scientists are not interested in publishing in them.”

The other article “Science is broken” was more comprehensive. It refers to this article: www.firstthings.com/article/2016/05/scientific-regress


Here’s one quote: “Advocates of the existing scientific research paradigm usually smugly declare that while some published conclusions are surely false, the scientific method has "self-correcting mechanisms" that ensure that, eventually, the truth will prevail. Unfortunately for all of us, Wilson makes a convincing argument that those self-correcting mechanisms are broken.”

You’ll see if you peruse them that it’s not just one scientific field, though Psychology seems to have received most of the attention. There have also been several medical journal top editors that have said similar things about their field. Richard Smith, who was editor of the prestigious British Medical Journal from 1991-2004 wrote in a blog "Most of what is published in journals is just plain wrong or nonsense," says Smith, "The evidence, as opposed to the opinion, on prepublication peer review shows that its effectiveness has not been demonstrated and that it is slow, expensive, largely a lottery, poor at spotting error, biased, anti-innovatory ... prone to abuse, and unable to detect fraud,"

Back to another quote from Science is Broken: “Then there is outright fraud. In a 2011 survey of 2,000 research psychologists, over half admitted to selectively reporting those experiments that gave the result they were after. The survey also concluded that around 10 percent of research psychologists have engaged in outright falsification of data, and more than half have engaged in "less brazen but still fraudulent behavior such as reporting that a result was statistically significant when it was not, or deciding between two different data analysis techniques after looking at the results of each and choosing the more favorable."

And here’s a nice one: "The greatest scientific pioneers were mavericks and weirdos. Most valuable scientific work is done by youngsters. Older scientists are more likely to be invested, both emotionally and from a career and prestige perspective, in the regnant paradigm, even though the spirit of science is the challenge of regnant paradigms."


“Why, then, is our scientific process so structured as to reward the old and the prestigious? Government funding bodies and peer review bodies are inevitably staffed by the most hallowed (read: out of touch) practitioners in the field. The tenure process ensures that in order to further their careers, the youngest scientists in a given department must kowtow to their elders' theories or run a significant professional risk. Peer review isn't any good at keeping flawed studies out of major papers, but it can be deadly efficient at silencing heretical views.”

From another article on the continued search for the nature of Dark Matter “I think it’s very, very healthy for the field that you have people thinking about all kinds of different ideas,” said Bullock. “Because it’s quite true that we don’t know what the heck that dark matter is, and you need to be open-minded about it.www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016...-disk-theory/478488/

Someone also posted this quote from that maverick Einstein “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matter.”

A somewhat related article was also recently published in The Week, though it focused more on religious attitudes. Why is doubt difficult?

And I’ll just post one quote from it: “The natural condition of humanity, you might say, is relatively passive, dogmatic belief in whatever the political, moral, and religious authorities teach in a given time and place about right and wrong, good and bad, just and unjust — and about God or the gods.”

Now, while it seems that about every other scholarly field in academia is reflecting on its research and publication processes affecting the quality of its research, and already making serious adjustments in them, I saw nothing about any such concern in the areas of Literature, even that of Shakespeare Studies which has increasingly attempted to be more “science” based and replicable. If those in the field show no interest in re-examining their research rigor, peer-review biases, or tolerance (yet alone acceptance) of possible pioneers who seem like mavericks or weirdos that might shake the boat, then why not just drop the pretense? Obviously, such an honest revaluation and self-correction of this field cannot be done while forever suppressing the authorship question, such that only unintimidated Italian journals might publish such topics.

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