I realize upon rereading my last post on the Frost ‘alphabetic gene’ hypothesis that I was a bit unclear. My difficulty is not with the purported aim of Medical Hypotheses to publish work without peer review, or that I consider that Frost’s article had best been left unpublished. One of the real problems of peer review is that it is an extremely conservative process that has all sorts of inherent limitations. I’m a big supporter of publish-then-review over review-then-publish, even though it means that yes, some crap will be published, and in fact probably a lot of crap will be published. For online publications, there is no technical reason not to do so.
Nor is it the interdisciplinary nature of the research; as an anthro-linguo-evo-archaeo-historical cognitive scientist, I basically believe that all disciplinary boundaries are essentially artificial, and while occasionally useful, frequently limit discussions in unfruitful ways. I am constantly amazed at the huge gaps in knowledge in my own field of study that exist, I believe, because disciplinary boundaries discourage the asking of certain types of questions. (It did make it very easy to find things to write about though!)
Nor even was the problem with Frost’s specific formulation: I believe it to be in error, and in fact that the test implications of the hypothesis are not too difficult to reject, but it is interesting. And after all, if he hadn’t published it, I wouldn’t have had so much fun thinking about the idea critically.
No, if I have a difficulty, it is that I don’t think it is maximally productive for journals like Medical Hypotheses to be run (and to have articles chosen) strictly by medical scientists. My proposal for a sister journal, Social Hypotheses, was only half in jest – I think we desperately need a sort of reformulation of Notes & Queries or the way Man used to be back in the old days, with short empirical, theoretical, and indeed speculative pieces that can be produced rapidly and disseminated to a wide audience. But I don’t want to know only what doctors want to know about anthropology; I also want to know what architects, astrophysicists, and yes, even anthropologists want to know about anthropology. Maybe I’m not really talking about journals; maybe that’s old-fashioned 20th century thinking. Maybe I’m just talking about indexing academic blog posts in a way that lets them get to the people who need to read them.
One thought on “A clarification”
I’m the editor of Medical Hypotheses. I think it is a great idea to have an editorially reviewed journal on the lines of Social Hypotheses – indeed, I think every field could benefit from this type of outlet. Indeed, until just a few decades ago most journals were editorially reviewed.
It is a workable model. Medical Hypotheses has an impact factor of 1.3 – which is quite respectable – and about 45 000 downloads per month. Just as importantly it is economically viable to publish – and has recently undergone binary fission to produce the new sister journal Bioscience Hypotheses.
So why not a Social Hypotheses?