Wednesday, March 04, 2009

DBR: moving forward

I have no doubt that people are sick of this subject now, so I'll try not to rehash or re-argue points that many have brought up. It seems to me (as a supporter of DBR) that the objections to DBR can be categorized as
  • self-aware: "we are not biased. period. everything is good".
  • conservative: "DBR could cause other problems: why replace one flawed system with another"
  • logistic: "authors could slyly reveal info, how do we handle self-citations etc"
  • irritated: "why are you people rabble rousing: leave us alone"
In this regard, I think people should really try to read Kathryn McKinley's essay on this topic (and the related links). There's much there for all: for us utopian DBR devotees, she points out that the most effective kind is a appears to be a staged unblinding approach, rather than a straight DB approach. For those who think that we can check our own biases, she provides references and evidence for why this goes against what we know about human psychology. For people concerned about logistical issues, she discusses many of the common problems (and also references other disciplines that have made their own attempts to solve this).

A comment I read somewhere (union of Sorelle, Lance, Michael and myself) made what I thought was an excellent point: if people are really committed to trying out DBR, it might be good to experiment in a conference outside the big ones, so we can acquire some level of familiarity with the system (or realize that it's totally useless). As I had mentioned to Sorelle, this ultimately boils down to having a PC chair who wants to experiment in this way: Michael tried doing serious CoI at the STOC PC meeting and received no small amount of flak for doing so, but at least he tried, and it convinced him that it should happen even more.

More on the dynamics of peer review (this at the level of funding panels) comes from a new book reviewed in IHE. The review reveals some of the key findings: nothing entirely surprising, but a clear indication that many "non-technical" factors go into a proposal getting funded (even things like who has a plane to catch and when).
It's reading things like this that makes me impatient with people who claim that bias doesn't exist.

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