January 03, 2009

Fourth tier journals A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education included a pernicious, seemingly commonsensical statement about academic production. The claim was that most scholarly articles appear in third and fourth tier journals that no one ever reads so that their contribution to knowledge is basically nil (the context of the claim was the idea that the emphasis on research is misplaced; because they don't actually contribute to knowledge, most academics are a waste of time and money; what they should be doing is teaching). This is wrong for at least three reasons. It is also highly conservative and should be rejected by all left-thinking people. The first is the long tail argument (originally made by Chris Anderson in an article in Wired) that is the basis for Netflix and Itunes (not to mention blogs). Given the 80/20 rule, most articles, blogs, songs, films will be unviewed, unread, by very many people. But insofar as there are millions and millions of people, even the relatively obscure movies, songs, articles, blogs, may well be read by thousands. For them, the work has some kind of value. The second is that knowledge is discursive; it is a product of and situated in discursive formations. Multiple second, third, and fourth tier journals play key roles in establishing and undermining discourses; they both constitute the discourse of a field and provide arenas for its testing, strengthening, and undermining. One way they do this is by giving opportunities to hard working scholars (graduate students and junior...

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean is a political theorist.

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