Experts propose alternative to “macho and destructive” academic culture

Posted by er134 at Jul 08, 2013 12:01 PM |
A group of female scholars will hold an experiment in “friendly and supportive” peer review at the Critical Management Studies conference in Manchester on July 10-12

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 8 July 2013

Management experts are proposing an alternative approach to peer review of scholarly papers which they believe will avoid the “overly-competitive” and “masculine” traits of traditional academic discourse.

Vida, an association set up in 2009 for women researching and teaching Critical Management Studies in business schools and elsewhere, will test out a different way for academics to discuss and review each others’ work at the Critical Management Studies conference in Manchester on July 10-12.

The group’s Experiment in Critical Friendship aims to offer only constructive, friendly and supportive criticism – and will ban unnecessarily combative comments.

Any female scholar seeking feedback from other women can submit a paper, which will then be discussed by the academics participating in the conference stream.

The group will make a recording of the discussion, which will be sent to the authors, who will then be encouraged to engage further with their critical friends and each other via the Vida website.

The experiment was set up in response to feelings that academia is dominated by overly-aggressive, “macho” rules of engagement which have silenced some female academics.

Vida feel that women – perhaps especially doctoral students and early career researchers – may be dissuaded from putting forward unusual ideas for fear of negative reviews or mockery.

Although Vida was formed solely for female academics, the association does not want to restrict the Critical Friend concept to women – and calls on male and female scholars across all disciplines to set up similar networks. They hope this will make academia more supportive, more constructive, more egalitarian and more inclusive – as well as more open to new ideas.

The Experiment represents a face-to-face version of the association's Critical Friend Scheme, which allows female academics to discuss and critique each others’ work through the Vida website.

Professor Jo Brewis, Professor of Organisation and Consumption at the University of Leicester's School of Management and one of the founding members of Vida, said: “In the peer-review process, academics often have no qualms about shooting each other down. They are often overly-aggressive and destructive – particularly when they are making comments anonymously as part of the review process for journals.

“That kind of commentary is not constructive – it can be upsetting, and can really knock your confidence. Even if the points made are useful, they are conveyed in such inflammatory language that it is very hard for the author to take it on the chin.

“Some of the problems with academic discourse occur when it is overly masculine or macho. It isn’t an exclusive property of men – both men and women can be equally unsupportive of each others’ work. But we think the destructive tendencies of peer-review particularly affect women.

“We are not suggesting that academics should only say nice things to each other. We are simply trying to experiment with forms of peer-to-peer critique which are constructive and take each paper on its own merits. Reviews can be very critical but still be supportive and useful to the author.”


Notes to Editors

For more information, please contact:

Professor Jo Brewis at:

Vida was originally set up by Professor Jo Brewis and Dr Sarah Robinson, University of Leicester; Professor Kiran Trehan, University of Birmingham; Dr Alessia Contu, University of Warwick; Dr Sadhvi Dar, Queen Mary, University of London; Dr Carole Elliott, Durham University; and Dr Martyna Sliwa of the University of Essex.

More information about VIDA can be found at:

More information about the International Conference in Critical Management Studies can be found at:

Share this page: