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  • The Politicization of Scholarship: Redux
  • Peter V. Paul, Editor

In light of a recent New York Times op-ed article (Pamela Paul, 2023) and recent reviews of journal manuscripts (including one of my own by others), it is time to return to the subject of the politicization of scholarship. I covered aspects of this construct in a previous editorial (Peter V. Paul, 2022). In that piece, I provided my views on problematic concepts such as confirmation bias, unconscious bias, citation bias, cancellation, and censorship. In the present editorial, I cover related politicized constructs such as decolonization, lived experience, positionality, and citation “justice.” I have selected a few articles and web links for discussion purposes—and no doubt this is a reflection of my biases. Granted, it is a challenge to present succinct views that are not superficial in an editorial. Nevertheless, my aim is to discuss these constructs in a balanced manner—as much as possible—and to encourage readers to engage in further exploration.

Identity-based ideologies have contributed to the politicization of science, perhaps to all forms of scholarship (Abbot et al., 2023; Pamela Paul, 2023; Peter V. Paul, 2022). This seems to threaten impartiality or objectivity, or, specifically, the idea that scientific or scholarly research can and should be independent. Indeed, depending on the particular ideology, a scholar’s approach and interpretation of the data might be characterized as racist, ableist, sexist, or, in our field, audist. These characterizations can also be levied against scholars who are purportedly members of an examined group. For example, it is possible for a woman scholar to be charged with promoting sexist views or a d/Deaf scholar to be accused of audism.

One of the controversial ideological constructs is decolonization. The requirement that scholarship be “decolonized” has been applied to hard-science disciplines such as physics, biology, and psychology (Pamela Paul, 2023; see also Peter V. Paul, 2022). However, it can also be applied to other so-called soft research sciences such as social work and education. According to some scholars, decolonization is necessary to eliminate or minimize hegemonic, mainstream perspectives or interpretations of data and increase the expression of “authentic” views of “insiders.” Essentially, this implies that insiders (e.g., members of diverse groups under study) with lived experiences can offer a more accurate and realistic framework. Such a framework is purported to counteract any negative findings, which are argued to be due mainly to mainstream social and cultural biases of the examiners, who are “outsiders”—and, historically, who have been White males.

As I have argued previously (Peter V. Paul, 2022), this has led to the cancellation [End Page 112] (or renaming) of works associated with, for example, Isaac Newton and Erwin Schrodinger, and even to the downplaying of the achievements of Helen Keller and Alexander Graham Bell (see additional examples in Krylov, 2021). There seems to be a tension between “liberal epistemology and identity-based ideologies” (Abbot et al., 2023, p. 2).

Let’s start with a controversial article that was published, ironically, in the Journal of Controversial Ideas (Abbot et al., 2023) after being rejected by other reputable science journals (see discussion in Pamela Paul, 2023). This article, “In Defense of Merit in Science,” expounded on the above-mentioned tension. The rejection of this paper by other journals actually began with the use of the word “merit” in its title (see, e.g., In Defense of Merit, 2023). Abbot et al. (2023) argued that research and its findings should be based on merit, which, in my view, can be translated as adequate quality indicators, acceptable technical merits, or desirable research characteristics (the quality of the literature review, methodology, data analyses, etc.; see also Peter V. Paul & Wang, 2017).

In general, merit is associated with a liberal epistemology, often labeled as the standard epistemology (e.g., see Peter V. Paul & Moores, 2012) entailing objectivity and impartiality. We can think of liberal epistemology as a good example of “decontextualized rationality” (Peter V. Paul, 2014). However, in a postmodern world, merit is purported to be a biased, power-driven, hegemonic term and cannot or should not be applied to a particular discipline or research approach. Furthermore, per this...

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