Saturday 15 August 2009

The Journal of European Public Policy: Blatant mistake in the current issue

One might think that peer-reviewed political science publications should not contain blatant factual mistakes.

However, in the freshly published issue 6 (Volume 16/2009) of the Journal of European Public Policy - one of the most important political science journals on EU affairs - there is an article by Sabine Saurugger (pp. 935–949) titled "Sociological Approaches in EU Studies" where on page 941 you find the following sentence:
"[T]he hypothesis of a creeping depoliticization of the EU is questioned, not only since the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty by the French and the Dutch but already between 1980 and 1990."
Since you readers are EU geeks, you will have immediately noticed that the French and the Dutch have rejected the Constitutional Treaty, not the Lisbon Treaty, which was rejected by the Irish.

This obvious mistake is the more remarkable if one considers that several notable scientists have read the article before it was published, including the peer reviewer:
"The author would like to thank F[.] Mérand, O[.] Rozenberg, A[.] Menon, the anonymous reviewer, and in particular Berthold Rittberger for their extremely perceptive comments on earlier versions of this article." (footnote 1)
I'd say that such a mistake is neither the best advertisement for a peer-reviewed journal nor for the scientist involved in and around the article.

I hope that this is not a general indication of the quality in peer-reviewed journals but just a mistake that happened in the current hype around the Lisbon Treaty ratification...


Anonymous said...

Touché, as they say in French. One should always be critical of what one reads, even in academic journals. I suppose such a gross mistake would have been unthinkable if the author had been a lawyer instead of a sociologist, but perhaps I'm prejudiced...

Julien Frisch said...

I have no doubts that this is just a slip of the pen, but one that remained unnoticed by the author, the reviewer, and anyone else that read the article before it was published.

Julien Frisch said...

And I should notice that in the context of this article, it has no negative effect on the argumentation. But still...

André Feldhof said...

It's reassuring to know that probably all readers of the Journal will notice the mistake und understand what was meant. And all other non-EU Geeks wouldn't bother to read the Journal in the first place.

Julien Frisch said...

If the reviewer didn't see it, will the readers...?

Sabine Saurugger said...

Oh, gosh, this is terrifying indeed. As I am neither a sociologist nor a lawyer, but only a terrible uninformed political scientist, I hope you can forgive me. Worse is, I am not even French. And yes, you are correct in assuming that instead of concentrating on the Constitutional treaty, or even the Lisbon treaty, I wrote on a totally different subject. Still, I do agree, it is terrifying that I was so worked up in another argument that I got the simpliest facts wrong and do hope that you accept my sincerest apologies.

Julien Frisch said...

Dear Sabine Saurugger,

the argument is not so much about you or the mistake, it is rather about the fact that the review process does not detect such kind of obvious mistakes. So if this kind of mistakes passes, do even more grave mistakes - e.g. in the argumentation - do also pass? I just wanted to make this point strong, in particular because in many scientific or non-scientific publications you can find similar factual mistakes when people talk about the EU.

But on a more reflective note coming from another political scientist I would say that I find your scientific argumentation - that I have read, too - not completely convincing, although I agree with your argument that more sociological approaches are needed to study the EU.

Such kind of research would actually also be very helpful to the teaching of EU politics that is too much focused on the macro-level and thus miss the most interesting dynamics of EU politics.

Yet, I am not sure that your four different categories of different sociological approaches really constitute conceptual difference.

Looking at the distinction between the sociology of public policy and critical approaches, I'd for example take the following quote:

"Sociologists in this context analyse the EU as a political field in the Bourdieuian sense which combines reflections on the reasons for actors’ attitudes, mostly based on conflict and social competition (Dezalay and Rask Madsen 2006). Political activism is understood as a strategy in a specific social field ‘in which actors try to monopolize resources, reproduce insider advantages, control gate keeper access to the Commission or Parliament, or discursively dominate weaker players through the strategic deployment of ideas and values’ (Favell 2007: 127; see also Manners 2006: 82 – 3; Kauppi 2003)"

If you had used these lines in the public policy part, it wouldn't have made a big difference.

A similar thing between the "normative approaches" and "system approaches":

How do you separate concepts like "cosmopolitanism" in the one group from "horizontal linkages across societies as a result of the politics pursued by elites and governments" in the other? You might have a reason to do this, but I don't find that the article really clarifies these boundaries.

Thus I am not sure that the article will be really helpful to guide further research in the area, despite the fact that it is desperately needed.

So I am sorry for having taken up the most minor issue - a factual mistake - that is obvious to my readers rather than going deep into conceptual discussions that are not to much of interest for these same readers.