Tag Archives: atrocious literature review

bad academia

I’ve written before about some poor papers I’ve seen/reviewed/refereed in academia.

Unfortunately the problem is becoming worse not better. I recently read articles that showed absolutely no awareness of key articles – we are not talking articles that could legitimately be “missed” in a literature review because of issues regarding different terminology etc and being in unrelated disciplines. We’re talking articles that are:

  • In the same field or a a field that is now routinely scoured for info, being recognised as one which generates a lot of the major methodological developments
  • Open source so can be read by literally anyone
  • Co-authored by someone who would and should and have got a Nobel Prize, had there been one in his discipline….and who was (graciously) mentioned in the Nobel lecture of an Economist who *did* get the Prize but who recognised the theory had been proven elsewhere at least as early as in economics.

This begs the obvious question:


I’m afraid I have only two explanations:

  1. The authors deliberately ignored the key article, to justify their work to funders, or
  2. The authors are incompetent, missing an article that were a first year undergrad to miss in a summer dissertation, I’d have failed them instantly.

So, what is it?

I hesitate to harp on about my education, but sometimes you must call a spade a spade. I was taught economics, obtaining a 2.1 at Cambridge University where I was taught Marx, mathematical economics that went beyond what my MATHS friends were doing in their degree, high level statistics, and proper literature reviewing. The latter was reinforced and drummed into me in my MSc in Health Economics at York and PARTICULARLY during my PhD at Bristol in Social Medicine (specialising in medical statistics and health economics).

I taught med students….which was a horrifying experience in terms of realising how little they understood calculus (having supposedly got an A or maybe at worst B grade in maths A level). Now I won’t get preachy – stuff that was on the single maths syllabus from 1960 was on the further maths syllabus of my time (1990-1991). So I know A levels had already been dumbed down to some extent. But there’s a critical threshold, beyond which the candidate is, well, retarded…..sorry for un-PC term….but I’m fed up of excuses for these people. They get away with work that is no better than the “fake news” they excoriated in daily pollution of my Twitter Feed….and it has to stop.

Sorry, you’re shit. Your work is sub-standard and you shouldn’t, absolutely shouldn’t, be in academia. You’re simply not up to it.

And people wonder why I get angry at the rubbish I’ve had to read through for years; why I don’t do anything academic anymore. There are a few very talented groups who I exempt from the above – you know who you are.

Others – WHY are you doing what you are doing? How do you sleep at night?