Publisher apologizes, refuses to take down colonialism essay

An academic journal is insisting that a controversial article on colonialism that sparked a petition from angry academics did, in fact, pass a thorough peer-review process.

According to a written statement from the publisher of Third World Quarterly, “The Case for Colonialism” went through multiple rounds of peer-review that spanned from April to August of this year, contrary to detractors’ claims that the article “is harmful and poorly executed pseudo-’scholarship.’”

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“There have been many accusations that this essay was not peer reviewed, or ‘failed’ multiple rounds of peer review linked to a special issue, and also independent of it,” Leon Heward-Mills, the global publishing director of the Taylor & Francis Group, wrote in a statement first reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

“Using the checks in our systems, we can be absolutely clear on the path through peer review this essay took,” he added, noting that the work “was double blind peer-reviewed by two referees (in line with the journal’s policy).”

The publisher explained that the two reviewers gave opposing reports, which meant that the final decision to publish “was made by the Editor-in-Chief, following the author making major revisions.”

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The published essay created a wave of backlash in academia and prompted more than a dozen members of its editorial board to resign in protest, The Chronicle reported.

Almost 7,000 people have also signed a petition calling for the journal to apologize and retract the article entirely.

The publisher further explained that Bruce Gilley, the author of the essay, “contacted the journal’s editorial team, requesting the essay be withdrawn” in late September.

According to the statement, however, the publisher told Gilley that “peer-reviewed research articles cannot simply be withdrawn but must have grounds for retraction,” with Heward-Mills explaining that “These parameters exist in order to keep the scholarly record intact and so academic discourse cannot be shaped by any one opinion.”

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Despite refusing to withdraw the article, the publisher issued an apology to those who have interpreted the work as “click bait,” and maintained that it was never “our, or the Editor-in-Chief’s, intention to cause offence.”

“We wholeheartedly apologize to those who have seen this as such but, as the publisher, we stand by the peer review process which led to this essay being published and defend the right of our academic journal editors and editorial boards to remain independent in their decision-making,” Heward-Mills said.

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