Tuesday, May 31, 2022

This provocation argues that up to 50% of the articles that are now being published in many interdisciplinary sustainability and transitions journals may be categorized as "scholarly bullshit"

Bullshit in the Sustainability and Transitions Literature: a Provocation. Julian Kirchherr. Circular Economy and Sustainability, May 20 2022. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s43615-022-00175-9

Abstract: Research on sustainability and transitions is burgeoning. Some of this research is helping to solve humankind’s most pressing problems. However, as this provocation argues, up to 50% of the articles that are now being published in many interdisciplinary sustainability and transitions journals may be categorized as “scholarly bullshit.” These are articles that typically engage with the latest sustainability and transitions buzzword (e.g., circular economy), while contributing little to none to the scholarly body of knowledge on the topic. A typology of “scholarly bullshit” is proposed which includes the following archetypes: boring question scholarship, literature review of literature reviews, recycled research, master thesis madness, and activist rants. Since “scholarly bullshit” articles engage with the latest academic buzzwords, they also tend to accumulate significant citations and are thus welcomed by many journal editors. Citations matter most in the metric-driven logic of the academic system, and this type of scholarship, sadly, is thus unlikely to decrease in the coming years.

On the Root Causes of Scholarly Bullshit

There appears to be a lot of scholarly bullshit out there. A previous version of this manuscript stated that at least 50% of the articles published in sustainability and transitions journals may be categorized as scholarly bullshit. This figure has also been noted in the introduction. Two reviewers of this work asked how this figure has been developed. The author of this provocation has selected ca. 100 articles published recently on CE in well-known journals such as Journal of Cleaner Production, Ecological Economics, and Sustainability. The author could instantly categorize at least 50% of these articles in one of the five archetypes proposed in Table 1 and thus suggests that perhaps up to 50% of the articles that are now being published in many interdisciplinary sustainability and transitions journals could be categorized as “scholarly bullshit.” Admittedly, and at the risk of turning this provocation into a parody, the author notes that further work ought to be undertaken to strengthen this initial estimate. After all, ca. 100 articles are not representative of the vast scholarly CE literature and any set of articles ought to be coded by at least two scholars to ensure reliability.

The author also maintains that many scholars appear to agree that too much inferior quality is published in many sustainability and transitions journals. For instance, one of the reviewers of this paper noted in their review: “Interesting, provocative article […]. The author […] touches a topic that is […] a reality. I must say that I don't disagree with the general comment about the load and quality of papers published.” Meanwhile, the editor-in-chief of one of the most respected sustainability and transitions journal wrote to the author regarding an earlier version of this manuscript upon submission to their journal: “I may meet resistance from my co-editors, but I will defend your paper. This needs to be said.” (Sadly, the co-editors sacked the paper, and it then took a while until this provocation found a home in a respected peer-reviewed journal.)

Additionally, it appears that an increasing number of academicians in the field would agree that the share of scholarly bullshit is unlikely to decrease in the coming years. After all, if one searches journals such as Journal of Cleaner Production and Ecological Economics, one finds that articles containing the latest buzzwords, such as “circular economy,” are among the most cited pieces. Publishing such works has caused the impact factors of many journals to skyrocket. Accordingly, there is a certain fear among the editors of these journals that they will miss the next highly cited article. At the same time, the sheer volume and growth of this sustainability and transitions buzzword scholarship guarantees that almost any article on the topic will garner at least a modest number of citations.

This all also drives more and more authors into publishing on the very latest buzzword, e.g., “circular economy,” which creates a perpetuum mobile respectively vicious circle (depending on your perspective) regarding publications on such topics. Given this dynamic, the author of this work contends that, at this point, it is very difficult not to get a piece entailing the latest sustainability and transitions buzzword published in an at least relatively known peer-reviewed journal. All contributors (journal editors, authors) know they may be producing scholarly bullshit; however, publishing such works is advantageous for everyone involved in this contemporary academic system.

These scholarly bullshit publications, in turn, as also noted by a reviewer of this paper, are driven, from a roots cause perspective, by the need for tenure respectively the aim to secure promotion and funding. Those who seek this are usually required to demonstrate recognition of their work in the scholarly community which is operationalized by having published many highly cited works on a topic that is en vogue. People need permanent jobs and the desire to acquire funding and promotions is also understandable. It may thus not be fair to blame all academicians out there for churning out scholarly bullshit. Rather, the focus may be turned to the elites that have designed an academic system that mistakes publishing many highly cited papers for the advancement of science. In other words: the academic system is so focused on quantitative targets that it may have forgotten what these targets were supposed to measure.

Replacing this system with one that eventually produces less scholarly bullshit is no trivial task. Those running this system have proven significant staying power. However, some scholars in the field of sustainability and transitions literature and beyond still appear to/may be able to care about more than their h-index. The next time these scholars embark on a piece of research, they should ask themselves: “Is this me now merely adding to the pile of scholarly bullshit? Or am I contributing to the advancement of knowledge in my field?” And even those scholars who are driven by the metrics of the academic system may find that true contributions could gather the most recognition in the end.

People judge facial attractiveness more accurately for female faces while giving more accurate wealth judgments for male faces

Gender Biases in the Accuracy of Facial Judgments: Facial Attractiveness and Perceived Socioeconomic Status. Yue Qi and Jia Ying. Front. Psychol., May 31 2022 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.884888

Product: Many studies demonstrate that people form their first impression of a stranger based on facial appearance, and these impressions influence their subsequent decisions and behaviors. However, much less research has examined the factors that moderate the accuracy of first impressions based on a photo of face. The present study included three experiments to explore gender differences in the accuracy of impressions based on faces. The results showed that people judge facial attractiveness more accurately for female faces than for male faces while giving more accurate wealth judgments for male faces than for female faces. Interestingly, although we did not find a significant correlation between confidence ratings and the accuracy of wealth rating, we recognized a significant moderate correlation between confidence ratings and the accuracy of attractiveness ratings when female participants rated male faces. To our knowledge, the present study is the first to reveal gender biases in the accuracy of impression judgments based on facial appearance. These findings imply a significant influence of traditional gender roles on accurate facial judgments.

General Discussion

The present study showed that people give more accurate judgments of the facial attractiveness of female faces than of male faces and give more accurate wealth judgments for male faces than for female faces. To our knowledge, the current research is the first to show gender biases in the accuracy of impressions formed from faces. This indicates an important role of facial gender in shaping accurate first impressions.

The differences in judgment accuracy of male and female faces may be caused by differences in traditional gender roles. From an evolutionary perspective, these gender biases have been linked to the production and survival of offspring. A man’s reproductive potential is related more to his (economic) resources. In contrast, a woman’s reproductive potential is associated more closely with her health, which may be related to physical attractiveness (Luxen and Van De Vijver, 2006). Thus, females might be more familiar with others’ evaluations of their own facial attractiveness and thus achieve a higher level of consistency on self-other agreement. These results are also consistent with previous findings that facial gender is a salient facial cue in face processing and has an effect on other types of information (e.g., expression) processing (Liu et al., 2017). Moreover, Maner et al. (2003) found that both male and female observers selectively focus on physically attractive female targets according to the targets’ facial photos, suggesting that people care more about female facial attractiveness than male facial attractiveness. The more attention that is paid to female facial attractiveness, the more accurate the judgments that can be made based on facial appearance.

In contrast to the findings about female faces in Studies 1 and 2, Study 3 revealed that people tend to rate perceived socioeconomic status (SES) more accurately for male faces than for female faces. In mate selection, SES is of great significance to males since females are more attentive to resources that can be invested in themselves and their offspring (Wang et al., 2018). Thus, on the one hand, males will expend more effort to increase their SES and recognize SES differences between themselves and competitors so that they can attract potential mates. On the other hand, females will seek as much evidence as possible to confirm their judgment of males’ SES to help them “make a good choice”. Moreover, because the number of male billionaires is larger than that of females all over the world (Wai, 2014Forbes, 2022) and there is more media news or information related to wealthy males than to wealthy females, people may learn more useful cues to help them rate males’ SES, even using only faces. Therefore, people’s gender stereotypes are enhanced when SES is highly correlated with males in society. Similar gender bias is also found in research on how masculine facial cues play a key role in competence impressions (Oh et al., 2019). When people evaluate traits or personalities, the more evidence they accumulate and the more information they have observed and mastered, the higher the accuracy of their judgments and evaluations will be (Watson et al., 2000Biesanz et al., 2007). These findings provide cross-validation of our hypothesis that people may pay more attention to the characteristics that are consistent with gender roles (e.g., the attractiveness of women, the socioeconomic status of men), thus accumulating more evidence that helps them make more accurate judgments.

The current findings regarding gender bias show the great social influences on gender differences. The higher accuracy of judgments of the facial attractiveness of female faces and of the wealth of male faces indicates that people can make relatively accurate judgments about these factors based only on faces. More importantly, it suggests that when the characteristics are consistent with gender stereotypes and are emphasized by society, people assign more attention to the characteristics of the gender. As a result, by accumulating more experience and evidence, people can make more accurate judgments. On the positive side, people can quickly establish a relatively accurate impression of some characteristics that fit gender stereotypes to benefit their daily life interactions. However, the restricted accuracy of impressions based on face photos should receive more research attention. On the negative side, people put little effort into learning about characteristics that conflict with gender stereotypes, which might aggravate gender stereotypes across society. In addition, in Studies 2 and 3, we found that males rated characteristics that conflict with gender stereotypes more accurately than females did, which suggests that males might be affected less by gender stereotypes. This finding could be further examined in future research.

The analysis of confidence ratings implies that although the participants were able to make relatively accurate judgments, they may have struggled to be aware of their judgment accuracy. Participants might not realize whether they have extracted useful information from faces to help them make judgments. In addition, it is possible that they might not be sure of the gap between their own standards and external standards while giving their ratings. However, in Study 2, the significant moderate correlation between confidence ratings and rating accuracy when female participants rated male faces is interesting and is in line with research showing that females exhibit higher levels of interpersonal sensitivity than males (Chan et al., 2010). Despite female participants’ higher accuracy when rating female faces, they had a clearer awareness when rating male faces. When rating male faces, even though male participants rated them more accurately, they failed to recognize their rating accuracy. However, we did not find a similar result in Study 3. Overall, these results show that although gender bias exists in terms of judgment accuracy, people do not have a relatively clear awareness of their rating behaviors and the gender bias of their judgments. This means that during the rating process, people might have underlying evaluation references that they are unaware of, which could be explored more thoroughly in the future.

Republicans abhor 'critical race theory' more than 'cancel culture'

The new culture wars: Why critical race theory matters more than cancel culture. Eric Kaufmann. Social Science Quarterly, May 27 2022. https://doi.org/10.1111/ssqu.13156


Background: A set of ‘New Culture Wars’ over questions of majority identity protection and free speech have become important in American politics, but have not received attention from empirical political science

Objective: Compare the relative size of partisan differences on issues of ‘Cancel Culture’ and ‘Critical Race Theory’.

Method: Logistic regression models using attitudes toward real-world Cancel Culture and Critical Race Theory examples to predict partisanship.

Results: Data show that Republican voters are no more likely to fear career consequences or dismissal for speech than Democrats. Republicans are also more opposed to teaching critical perspectives on race and history in schools than they are to employees being fired for dissenting speech within organizations. Strong white identifiers are both more opposed to diversity training which emphasizes white racism and less opposed to firing people for disputed cases of racist or sexist speech.

Conclusion: Due to the distinctive moral foundations of conservative voters, this paper argues that perceived attacks on white and American identity are a more powerful source of grievance for Republican voters than concerns over freedom of expression. It is hypothesized that the conservative moral foundation of group loyalty helps to explain these findings.