Most academics would agree that the guiding values for peer review should include objectivity, balance and fairness, leading to measured, constructive, critical discourse.
Yet all too often competitiveness and personal prejudice get in the way. This arguably causes many authors to be more cautious in their arguments and conclusions that they might have been if guaranteed fair treatment.
The desire to address this issue is behind a new movement in critical management studies, our specialist field. ...
Under the terms of our experiment, any female scholar seeking feedback from other women can submit a working paper in advance of the conference; participants will then engage in constructive, friendly and supportive criticism at the event. Destructive criticism, of the type common in academic discourse, will be banned. So too will hierarchy - anyone can pitch in. ...
Why restrict the experiment to women? We are doing so because the contribution of female academics historically has been underplayed in our discipline and elsewhere ... To address this imbalance, women need the opportunity to strengthen and support each other.
Being a female academic can be a lonely and discouraging business in a field where - as in the rest of academic - the leading formal positions are usually held by men and the rules of engagement are set out along masculine "my theory is bigger than yours" lines. Both academic writing and critique have a tendency to machismo, incredulity, one-upmanship and acidity.
As a result, academic discourse can be vicious and genuinely damaging, particularly in the case of peer reviewers with the benefit of anonymity. This can mean that left-field ideas are not developed into papers out of fear of outright dismissal and even pen mockery. Brilliant female minds are not given enough space to develop in an environment where too often aggression is prized over originality. ...
To those who would argue that our experiment is just another talking shop, we say, what's wrong with that? Bright women working in the same field will undoubtedly improve the quality of the work they do through talking about their ideas with each other. In academia, talk is the fuel that drives us. (Brewis, 2013, pp.28-29).
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