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“Academic blogging” qua peer review

Unless you live under a rock (or if you don’t track education policy matters through social media – same thing), you know about the “big” study about teacher effects that was conducted by Chetty, Friedman and Rockoff, disseminated through NBER and reported in multiple outlets, most notably the New York Times.

This is an important study for at least a couple of reasons. First, methodologically, the study is massive and novel in some important ways. Second, from a policy perspective, even if the authors overreach in their interpretation, the study adds to the growing body of literature on teacher effectiveness and value-added measures. The more empirical evidence we have, the better; that’s the nature of scientific research.

I haven’t read the paper yet, so I won’t comment on it. What stood out to me over the last few days, though, is how scholarly communication unfolded. The authors published the paper through the National Bureau of Economics Research (NBER), which is a reputable research organization, but one that publishes working papers that don’t undergo traditional academic peer-review. The paper is dated December 2011, but it was essentially “released” when the New York Times reported about it on Friday (January 6). Within the last 48 hours (over a weekend!), we already have a number of scholars/academics who have issued a range of reviews of the study. Consider just the following:

Through traditional forms of scholarly communication, this would have taken months to a year+ to get published and hashed out. Instead, we get the paper and 4 thoughtful reviews, all within 48 hours! Our traditional forms of scholarly communication are broken and woefully outmoded. And, education scholars wonder why research is ignored and ill-respected.

One other note – consider the disciplinary backgrounds of the four reviewers: Baker (economics), Dorn (history), Riener (psychology), DiCarlo (sociology). Publishing to the open web also helps us break down disciplinary silos.

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