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Bullshit in the Sustainability and Transitions Literature: A Provocation

HT/Basil

Julian Kirchherr 

Circular Economy and Sustainability (2022) | Cite this article

Abstract

Research on sustainability and transitions is burgeoning. Some of this research is helping to solve humankind’s most pressing problems. However, as this provocation argues, up to 50% of the articles that are now being published in many interdisciplinary sustainability and transitions journals may be categorized as “scholarly bullshit.” These are articles that typically engage with the latest sustainability and transitions buzzword (e.g., circular economy), while contributing little to none to the scholarly body of knowledge on the topic. A typology of “scholarly bullshit” is proposed which includes the following archetypes: boring question scholarship, literature review of literature reviews, recycled research, master thesis madness, and activist rants. Since “scholarly bullshit” articles engage with the latest academic buzzwords, they also tend to accumulate significant citations and are thus welcomed by many journal editors. Citations matter most in the metric-driven logic of the academic system, and this type of scholarship, sadly, is thus unlikely to decrease in the coming years.

Introduction

Profanity is omnipresent in arts and culture, politics, and business. However, it is not found too frequently in academia (yet). After all, those employing profanity tend to be carried away by frustration and anger — feelings that the textbook scholar does not entertain. Yet, as this provocation argues, profanity can also have a useful function as a wake-up call, which may be needed in academia these days. Accordingly, the profanity the author of this provocation proposes in this work is “scholarly bullshit” — an essential term that should be considered in future writings in at least the sustainability and transitions literature that the author belongs to and perhaps in other fields as well.

Whereas any term including the word “bullshit” may seem odd to feature in a peer-reviewed publication, “bullshit” is an established line of inquiry in the academy, possibly started by Frankfurt [1]. This line of inquiry requires further attention, though. As Frankfurt (2, p. 2) notes: “the phenomenon [of bullshit] has not aroused much deliberate concern, or attracted much sustained inquiry. In consequence, we have no clear understanding of what bullshit is [and] why there is so much of it.” Accordingly, the first part of this provocation explores the types of scholarly bullshit found in the sustainability and transitions literature; the second part investigates the constraints of the academic system driving this kind of research. The author of this provocation maintains that the scholarly community on sustainability and transitions, ideally attempting to solve humankind’s most pressing problems, can benefit much from this.

Throughout this provocation, the term “scholarly bullshit” (as a sub-category of “bullshit”) is meant to critique the current contributions of many works published in interdisciplinary sustainability and transitions journals and beyond (the title of this work only uses the word “bullshit” for reasons of brevity, whereas it refers to, in substance, “scholarly bullshit”). Up to 50% of peer-reviewed works in the sustainability and transitions literature may be categorized as “scholarly bullshit” (further explained below). Inspired by Graeber [3], “scholarly bullshit” is defined as scholarship that is so pointless and unnecessary that even the scholar producing it cannot justify its existence. In essence, it is scholarship that does not contribute to the advancement of scientific knowledge on a subject at question. However, because of the current set-up of the academic system, the scholar feels obligated to pretend otherwise and to continue churning out this kind of work.

A Typology of Scholarly Bullshit

This provocation proposes a typology of scholarly bullshit. A reviewer of this work has asked how this typology has been developed. The corresponding author has read hundreds of articles in the sustainability and transitions literature over the years. Based on this reading, it appears to them that there are currently at least five archetypes of scholarly bullshit omnipresent in the literature (Table 1). This provocation illustrates these archetypes with circular economy (CE) scholarship which is the topical focus of this journal. The typology presented does not claim to be ultimate. However, the author has tested this typology with several scholars who usually found it to be exhaustive regarding inferior research currently published in many sustainability and transitions journals. Readers are welcome to further improve this typology.

Table 1 Archetypes of scholarly bullshit

Full size table

The first type of bullshit may be the most common and the most harmless type: boring question scholarship. These are articles that empirically replicate previous works. For example, the CE literature includes the many empirical works on CE barriers and enablers for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). These papers all begin with the same question, but each is followed by a different dataset. Although this scholarship lacks originality and thus misses an opportunity to significantly advance the field, it does contribute to its body of knowledge by strengthening its empirical foundation. This archetype is thus possibly only borderline scholarly bullshit, as also noted by a reviewer of this paper.

One sub-category within this archetype is the literature review of literature reviews, which may constitute a more problematic phenomenon. Indeed, this category is growing so fast that this article proposes it as a distinct archetype. Literature reviews are at the heart of this archetype. Evidently, literature reviews can add much to the body of scholarly knowledge — ideally, in the case of CE research, these works may even bring in previous scholarship that is not labelled as “circular economy,” but is about circular economy in substance. This may vastly accelerate CE as a field. However, these works are not the kind of literature reviews the author has in mind with this archetype. Rather, literature review of literature reviews summarize a sub-field within the field of CE, although recently this sub-field has very recently already been summarized. This phenomenon is illustrated by the many circular business model reviews out there now which are oftentimes largely indistinguishable. They summarize what we already know and do not bring in any new scholarship in their reviews. While boring question scholarship still adds to the field’s empirical base, it is difficult to detect the contribution of these latter works.

Currently, a third archetype in the literature is recycled research. Indeed, the substantive ideas behind many topics covered in the sustainability and transitions literature, including CE, have been researched for decades. The CE principles “reduce, reuse, recycle” have even been used for millennia. If scholars from adjacent fields start engaging with the newly emerged field of circular economy research, this is to be welcomed. However, currently, a growing number of scholars who were once experts for product-service systems, material efficiency, or product design appear to have merely re-branded themselves to jump on the CE bandwagon. This scholarship is often of excellent quality, both from a theoretical and empirical angle, but it has not built on the body of CE work because it has only opportunistically employed the term “circular economy,” sometimes even in only its title or keywords, and thus does not truly add to the body of knowledge on the subject.

The most problematic archetypes may be master thesis madness and activist rants, which both typically include major quality issues. Generally, publishing an article with a Master student in a peer-reviewed journal helps nourishing the next generation of academics. Outstanding scholarship has been produced via such collaborations. However, many in the field of CE may also be familiar with the established professors who push out one co-authored CE article after the other with their Master students in questionable journals such as Sustainability. These contributions appear to be less about nourishing the next generation of scholars, but rather about churning out peer-reviewed papers as fast as possible — never mind the quality. These pieces frequently include a messy (or no) application of theory, no more than a handful of qualitative interviews, an analysis that does not appear to be replicable and/or conclusions that are wide-sweeping, and not backed by the data. Such works undermine the standards of peer-reviewed publishing.

However, this archetype may be not as damning as the final archetype of bullshit: Activist rants. The common underpinning of these articles is a certain passion respectively animosity regarding CE. Undoubtedly, such passion can unleash tremendous effort regarding theoretical advancement or data collection that may strengthen our understanding of CE. However, these articles frequently remain experiential instead of turning theoretical and/or empirical; they attempt to build their legitimacy through general, feel-good claims instead of substantive arguments. To illustrate: A reflection about how a scholar refurbishes a 1969 Toyota that is at the age of 30 is not what advances the scholarly discourse, even if it is published in Nature. That is, a ‘Fridays for Future’ attitude is ravaging the literature.

The author has (largely) restrained from providing specific examples regarding the five types of scholarly bullshit since the aim of this work is not to criticize scholar A, B, or C, but rather describe a trend that transcends specific scholarly contributions. However, the author of this paper acknowledges, as they were also encouraged by one of the reviewers of this paper, that at least some of their work may also be categorized as “scholarly bullshit.” Indeed, the most noted work of this author, Kirchherr et al. [4], now close to 3,000 citations on Google Scholar, is a treatise on 114 definitions of CE that ultimately culminates in proposing the 115th definition of this very term. The reader is encouraged to attempt categorizing this work in one of the five archetypes proposed in Table 1.

On the Root Causes of Scholarly Bullshit

There appears to be a lot of scholarly bullshit out there. A previous version of this manuscript stated that at least 50% of the articles published in sustainability and transitions journals may be categorized as scholarly bullshit. This figure has also been noted in the introduction. Two reviewers of this work asked how this figure has been developed. The author of this provocation has selected ca. 100 articles published recently on CE in well-known journals such as Journal of Cleaner Production, Ecological Economics, and Sustainability. The author could instantly categorize at least 50% of these articles in one of the five archetypes proposed in Table 1 and thus suggests that perhaps up to 50% of the articles that are now being published in many interdisciplinary sustainability and transitions journals could be categorized as “scholarly bullshit.” Admittedly, and at the risk of turning this provocation into a parody, the author notes that further work ought to be undertaken to strengthen this initial estimate. After all, ca. 100 articles are not representative of the vast scholarly CE literature and any set of articles ought to be coded by at least two scholars to ensure reliability.

The author also maintains that many scholars appear to agree that too much inferior quality is published in many sustainability and transitions journals. For instance, one of the reviewers of this paper noted in their review: “Interesting, provocative article […]. The author […] touches a topic that is […] a reality. I must say that I don’t disagree with the general comment about the load and quality of papers published.” Meanwhile, the editor-in-chief of one of the most respected sustainability and transitions journal wrote to the author regarding an earlier version of this manuscript upon submission to their journal: “I may meet resistance from my co-editors, but I will defend your paper. This needs to be said.” (Sadly, the co-editors sacked the paper, and it then took a while until this provocation found a home in a respected peer-reviewed journal.)

Additionally, it appears that an increasing number of academicians in the field would agree that the share of scholarly bullshit is unlikely to decrease in the coming years. After all, if one searches journals such as Journal of Cleaner Production and Ecological Economics, one finds that articles containing the latest buzzwords, such as “circular economy,” are among the most cited pieces. Publishing such works has caused the impact factors of many journals to skyrocket. Accordingly, there is a certain fear among the editors of these journals that they will miss the next highly cited article. At the same time, the sheer volume and growth of this sustainability and transitions buzzword scholarship guarantees that almost any article on the topic will garner at least a modest number of citations.

This all also drives more and more authors into publishing on the very latest buzzword, e.g., “circular economy,” which creates a perpetuum mobile respectively vicious circle (depending on your perspective) regarding publications on such topics. Given this dynamic, the author of this work contends that, at this point, it is very difficult not to get a piece entailing the latest sustainability and transitions buzzword published in an at least relatively known peer-reviewed journal. All contributors (journal editors, authors) know they may be producing scholarly bullshit; however, publishing such works is advantageous for everyone involved in this contemporary academic system.

These scholarly bullshit publications, in turn, as also noted by a reviewer of this paper, are driven, from a roots cause perspective, by the need for tenure respectively the aim to secure promotion and funding. Those who seek this are usually required to demonstrate recognition of their work in the scholarly community which is operationalized by having published many highly cited works on a topic that is en vogue. People need permanent jobs and the desire to acquire funding and promotions is also understandable. It may thus not be fair to blame all academicians out there for churning out scholarly bullshit. Rather, the focus may be turned to the elites that have designed an academic system that mistakes publishing many highly cited papers for the advancement of science. In other words: the academic system is so focused on quantitative targets that it may have forgotten what these targets were supposed to measure.

Replacing this system with one that eventually produces less scholarly bullshit is no trivial task. Those running this system have proven significant staying power. However, some scholars in the field of sustainability and transitions literature and beyond still appear to/may be able to care about more than their h-index. The next time these scholars embark on a piece of research, they should ask themselves: “Is this me now merely adding to the pile of scholarly bullshit? Or am I contributing to the advancement of knowledge in my field?” And even those scholars who are driven by the metrics of the academic system may find that true contributions could gather the most recognition in the end.

Data availability

Not applicable.

References

  1. Frankfurt HG (1986). On bullshit. Raritan Q Rev.
  2. Frankfurt HG (2005). On bullshit. https://doi.org/10.1515/9781400826537Article Google Scholar 
  3. Graeber D (2018) Bullshit jobs: a theory. Simon & SchusterGoogle Scholar 
  4. Kirchherr J, Reike D and Hekkert M (2017). Conceptualizing the circular economy: an analysis of 114 definitions. Resour Conserv Recycling, 127.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resconrec.2017.09.005

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Acknowledgements

The author thanks Jeroen van den Bergh for valuable comments on a previous version of this work.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. Innovation Studies Group, Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University, Princetonlaan 8a, 3584 CB, Utrecht, the NetherlandsJulian Kirchherr

Contributions

Not applicable.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Julian Kirchherr.

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Competing interests

The author declares no competing interests.

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Highlights

• Up to 50% of articles published in many sustainability and transitions journals may be categorized as “scholarly bullshit”

• Five archetypes of scholarly bullshit: boring question scholarship, literature review of literature reviews, recycled research, master thesis madness, and activist rants

• The share of scholarly bullshit is unlikely to decrease in the coming years due to the metric-driven logic of the academic system.

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Kirchherr, J. Bullshit in the Sustainability and Transitions Literature: a Provocation. Circ.Econ.Sust. (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s43615-022-00175-9

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  • Received15 November 2021
  • Accepted01 May 2022
  • Published20 May 2022
  • DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1007/s43615-022-00175-9

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dodgy geezer
May 24, 2022 6:04 am

However, as this provocation argues, up to 50% of the articles that are now being published in many interdisciplinary sustainability and transitions journals may be categorized as “scholarly bullshit.”

In my experience, you could double that percentage…

H.R.
Reply to  dodgy geezer
May 24, 2022 6:26 am

Maybe triple the percentage due to the literature review of literature reviews category.
😉

Redge
Reply to  H.R.
May 24, 2022 11:31 pm

🙂

bullshit.gif
Last edited 1 month ago by Redge
Geo
Reply to  Redge
May 25, 2022 2:11 am

Hook’em Horns!

Reply to  Redge
May 25, 2022 3:47 am

WhatfingerS? Scutta, scutta mal popo!

dk_
Reply to  dodgy geezer
May 24, 2022 6:43 am

Possibly a scategory error, as horse shit is also common, and bat shit is frequently noted to be on the rise.

Richard Page
Reply to  dk_
May 24, 2022 7:34 am

Bat shit is particularly evident in the category of ‘activist rants’.

william Johnston
Reply to  Richard Page
May 24, 2022 8:06 am

No shit!

Richard Page
Reply to  william Johnston
May 24, 2022 8:26 am

I shit you not!

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Richard Page
May 24, 2022 8:39 am

You wouldn’t shit me, would you?

Richard Page
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
May 24, 2022 10:22 am

No shit, Sherlock!

Streetcred
Reply to  william Johnston
May 24, 2022 5:04 pm

I don’t give a shit !
https://youtu.be/kXH3HDE9Czo

Last edited 1 month ago by Streetcred
Duane
Reply to  dk_
May 24, 2022 1:22 pm

Batshit only applies to the psychopathic researchers. The rest are merely full of bullshit, horseshit, and birdshit.

Carbon Bigfoot
Reply to  dk_
May 27, 2022 9:35 am

Bat Shit(guano) is not on the due to the wholesale slaughter of bats,raptors, etc. by wind-thrashers and solar friers.

Duane
Reply to  dodgy geezer
May 24, 2022 1:21 pm

There might be some portion of published peer reviewed articles in this area of study that are horseshit, to be specific … not to mention chickenshit. Maybe even sprinkle in some birdshit as well.

dodgy geezer
May 24, 2022 6:27 am

Sounding a slightly more academic tone, Thomas Kuhn pointed out, in his “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), that science (indeed, I would add, ALL human progress) advances in an episodic fashion, from one paradigm to another, via ‘revolution’ rather than accretion.

Kuhn’s thesis was that a particular world-view holds sway (for instance, the Mediaeval concept of the Universe), and all observations are brought into alignment with that view. In some cases complicated work-arounds are needed (Ptolemaic epicycles?), while in others observations which obviously disprove the current paradigm assertions are openly ignored – treated as experimental errors or exceptions for unknown reasons.

Gradually the ramparts of the existing paradigm are eroded, until one day a paradigm shift happens, and a new paradigm replaces the old – as with Newtonian Gravitational Theory.

But during the era of an accepted paradigm, scientific work becomes simply a progress of dotting ‘i’s and crossing ‘t’s in the existing world-view. Such work is banal, repetitive, uninteresting and does not advance human understanding at all. All it does is serve to reinforce the existing paradigm and the positions of the establishment figures who depend upon it.

And that is the work we see published in the interdisciplinary sustainability and transitions journals which the article above complains about. Mindless routine expositions of how the currently accepted views are right…

Last edited 1 month ago by dodgy geezer
Gyan1
Reply to  dodgy geezer
May 24, 2022 8:26 am

The need to be right is a personality disorder which limits human development and potential. Open inquiry and examination of all possibilities is how that is maximized.

Danley Wolfe
Reply to  dodgy geezer
May 24, 2022 10:16 am

Kuhn was the original propagator of bullshit disinformation belonging in the bullshit hall of fame. Basic saying that scientific conclusions can be anything you want them to be / say so long as you say it in long form.

Reply to  Danley Wolfe
May 24, 2022 11:41 am

Right on, Danley.

Mr.
Reply to  dodgy geezer
May 24, 2022 11:27 am

And the real-world observations of Kuhn’s thinking can be found it Charles Mackay’s Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.

“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.”

Reply to  dodgy geezer
May 24, 2022 11:40 am

Kuhn is wrong. His description of science is so ambiguous that one is left unable to distinguish the work of Isaac Newton from that of Thomas Aquinas. Which is why post-modern meatheads love Kuhn so much.

Science is not paradigmatic fashion. Advances come when a new theory predictively explains more than the prior theory. The improved theory demonstrates its superiority with deduction of new and objective predictions that are specific, highly improbable, and independent of culture or bias.

Widespread agreement of scientists with contemporaneous physical theory is not political consensus. Use of consensus to describe that acceptance is a deliberate attempt to confuse the distinction between science and politics.

Not everyone can be brilliant. “Accretion” is not the word to use when smart-but-not-brilliant scientists interpret their work within current physical theory. That sort of work produces the advances that improve specific understandings and that provides the grist for technological improvements. It’s not just dotting i’s.

That sort of facile dismissal of good work merely displays the ignorance of one (Kuhn) who has never been a working scientist.

Science&Everything Else.jpg
Jim Gorman
Reply to  Pat Frank
May 25, 2022 1:51 pm

Science is what experimental scientists do to validate the mathematic predictions behind hypothesis. In turn they may extend the precision of results. The basis of all this is MEASURMENTS that are accurate and precise and that verifies the mathematics in functional relationships.

To this point, all I ever see climate science is that somehow consensus of correlations turns into actual physical science without any functional relationships being defined or measured.

DHR
May 24, 2022 6:43 am

“Provocation?” Sounds like BS from the git go.

alastair gray
Reply to  DHR
May 24, 2022 9:51 am

your comment is one of scholarly bullshit about scholarly bullshit about scholarly bullshit. My comment is scholarly bullshit to the power of 4

Richard Page
Reply to  alastair gray
May 25, 2022 2:42 pm

See, there comes a problem when you identify a situation so bad that it needs a whole new level above bullshit to emphasise just how bad.
I should like to suggest ‘hippo shit’ as this new level, given their tactic of using their tail to spray it over a large area!

Steve Case
May 24, 2022 6:53 am

Julian Kirchherr ‘s Academic or scholarly bullshit is
a reminder of Postmodernism. Is there a difference?

Some favorites:

Acceleration of sea level rise
Methane is so many times more powerful than CO2
Polar bears are becoming extinct
The ice caps are “melting”
Hurricanes are stronger and more frequent
Tornados are stronger and more frequent.
Droughts are deeper and more frequent.
“Wild fires” are bigger and more frequent.
World food production is headed for catastrophic decline.
(click on EVERTHINGCLIMATE) in the WUWT header
and select “Claimed Dangers’

Then there’s the silly shit:

Global warming causes more prostitution.
Global warming causes brain fungus
It’s a long list.

John Brignal’s Number Watch kept track
of the insanity with his Warmlist

Maybe the above isn’t exactly what Julian Kirchherr 
is describing as Scholarly Bullshit, but it is bullshit.

Mr.
Reply to  Steve Case
May 24, 2022 9:08 am

You left out “ingrown toenails” caused by climate change.

(but that might be bullshit 🤠 )

Mike Lowe
Reply to  Steve Case
May 24, 2022 12:17 pm

But each one generates at least one generous Grant!

H. D. Hoese
May 24, 2022 6:55 am
jeffery p
May 24, 2022 7:31 am

We have too many colleges and universities offering too many degrees that are good for only getting another, advanced degree in the same bullshit subject. Reform the student loan programs and force the schools to have a stake in their student’s success.

John VC
Reply to  jeffery p
May 24, 2022 7:50 am

I agree, Jeffery. When the “key” to success changed from a high school diploma to a 4 year degree, it guaranteed that those illiterate High-school grads would turn into college degree people who still cannot read, write, or think creatively

asiaseen
Reply to  John VC
May 24, 2022 9:16 pm

“… who still cannot read, write, or think creatively”

Or, more importantly, think logically.

Editor
Reply to  asiaseen
May 24, 2022 10:34 pm

Or critically.

Old Man Winter
Reply to  jeffery p
May 24, 2022 8:09 am

Governments & businesses have degree requirements for jobs so EEs can reach the level of
incompetency more easily & eliminate competition from skilled people without the right degree.
Degree holders, like CEOs, are a club that looks out for itself, not the company. The FBI’s run by
lawyers, not cops! 😮

Olen
May 24, 2022 7:49 am

The BS could be a way of advancing careers under the medieval concept used in the political sphere of doing things today. In those times stepping out could be the stake while today it can be banishment or loss of job.

Much of that can be solved by eliminating election fraud where the public elects their representatives rather than the two parties.

Bruce Cobb
May 24, 2022 8:23 am

There appears to be a disturbance in the Farce.

fretslider
May 24, 2022 8:36 am

It’s called jumping on the bandwagon

Gary Pearse
May 24, 2022 8:45 am

“master thesis madness”

It’s worse than this. I have a master’s degree in geology from the 1960s (and bachelor’s in engineering) when standards were high and only 5% of the population were accepted into university. Now they hand out PhDs like Crackerjack^тм prizes. I recall one in Australia who received a PhD for a critique of HadCrut temperature series! This would have been a BA essay paper in an earlier generation. The

They opened the doors wide for the “equality of outcomes” hordes 20 to 30yrs ago. First they steered them into the arts/humanities, all the while chipping about the edges of science and engineering. Now we even have a cartoonist who was awarded a PhD in climate science for coming up with the bogus consensus on global warming, the idea in itself that is a mockery of science.

jeffery p
Reply to  Gary Pearse
May 24, 2022 9:08 am

An overlooked issue is the schools must graduate more unqualified people or admit the public education system is failing.

It’s CYA for the education establishment. Every step of the way, the students are failed by the system. Instead of admitting the failure of social engineering and social justice indoctrination that passes as education these days, they blame endemic racism. Or sexism. Or the patriarchy.

Last edited 1 month ago by jeffery p
Gregg Eshelman
Reply to  jeffery p
May 24, 2022 10:56 am

Our schools are definitely failing to teach proper English. One just has to spend any time online on social media or looking at adds on craigslist or facebook marketplace to see that a lot of people cannot spell and don’t know grammar.

Gregg Eshelman
Reply to  Gary Pearse
May 24, 2022 10:55 am

John Cook’s SciFi parody webcomic, “Sev Trek” was often funny. His BS climate activism isn’t.

Geoff Sherrington
May 24, 2022 9:15 am

Of course, the open mind asks for the most clear examples.
It is hard to beat the Australian Academy of Science 2021 effort named
“The risks to Australia of a 3 degrees C warmer world”.
The several authors are self-appointed legends in their own lifetimes, so they think it appropriate to position themselves at the very peak of a huge pyramid of pseudo-academic peer-reviewed literature, including earlier editions of their own. It is beyond contempt to question the paper – a couple of us suggested retraction or revision, only to be treated with a dose of the quiets as in no reply was entertained.
A hallmark of the paper it that it unassailable. The authors have designed their pyramid in ways that are mysterious, so that a challenge can be dismissed because it fails their own unstated game rules. The paper is short on measurements and observations but long on speculation, especially the futuristic type that cannot be verified until decades ahead of us have revealed the answers.
Schools will be force fed this speculative nonsense but doubt about it will send students to the process equivalent of being burned at the stake. Such burning, however, will be more efficient in a warmer world that is taken as gospel without regard to the latest UAH satellite temperature data showing no warming trend for the last 9 years and 9 months for the lower troposphere over Australia.
Scientific? No, merely more academic bullshit that includes most of the sub-categories listed above. Geoff S

TEWS_Pilot
May 24, 2022 10:00 am

Presenters of Sustainability and Transitions Literature need a signer for the deaf…
comment image

Clyde Spencer
May 24, 2022 10:04 am

The word “bullshit,” and similar scatological variations, may be crude and vulgar; however, it is not profane in the way it is being used in the article.

Danley Wolfe
May 24, 2022 10:11 am

I imagine you could get an advanced degree with a thesis having “bullshit” in the title.
And publish articles on blogs on the subject of bullshit.
Does published research on “bullshit publishing” contribute to bullshit publishing. 
Answer, surely.
And it is a huge waste of your, my, our time.
Unfortunately there is no independent referee / oversight on what can be published in blogs.
No letters to the editor, only blog replies.
It is simply a hyge waste of your time ranting about it.

May 24, 2022 11:19 am

It’s not that, The share of scholarly bullshit is unlikely to decrease in the coming years due to the metric-driven logic of the academic system.

It’s that the share of scholarly bullshit is unlikely to decrease in the coming years because government richly and consistently funds the BSers.

Cut off government funding from political advocacy in the academy, and the whole industry grinds to a halt.

Universities have completely violated the tenure agreement. They use public money to fund politically biased pseudo-scholarship. Faculty don’t even pretend to dispassionate scholarship. They’re outspokenly radical.

Public money for partisan politics should be a crime. Perhaps it is. But in any case, it must stop.

Governors should stop spending public money to budget partisan university departments. Likewise the Feds. The offense is blatant and outrageous.

May 24, 2022 11:41 am

Not quite up to Alan Sokal standards, but nicely put nevertheless.

This particular reviewer makes three comments:

(1) For “50%,” everywhere substitute “97%”.

(2) There’s a howler in Table 1, “recently review.”

(3) The References lead to a dead end, thus contradicting the author’s thesis of “circular economy.”

Robert of Ottawa
May 24, 2022 12:14 pm

I have a hardcover copy of Frankfurt’s “On Bullshit”; it is a masterful exemplar. This man knows what he is talking about.

Bob
May 24, 2022 12:29 pm

I concur.

B Sprague
May 24, 2022 1:17 pm

The underlying premise of “sustainability” is scientifically flawed, and therefore papers purporting to be about “sustainability” are necessarily bullshit. The Second Law of Thermodynamics holds that entropy is always increasing, which means that nothing is “sustainable”. The Universe, sun, earth is always moving from order to chaos. Everything is winding down.

“Sustainability” is scientifically impossible, and to pretend that it is not just gives the left a cudgel with which to beat on people who disagree with their extremism.

Last edited 1 month ago by B Sprague
Duane
May 24, 2022 1:20 pm

Great – a Post Doc in Bullshit.

Len Werner
May 24, 2022 3:45 pm

As odourous as this subject is, getting involved in the discussion is a slippery slope considering the topical lubrication.

Neither is it new; I formed the conclusion nearly 50 years ago that ‘The World Runs On Bullshit And Lies’ for the simple reason that decisions are often made on just such writings as the author highlights in his scatalogical argument.

It also pervades most fields of science, including medicine which we must remember has in its foundational history the promotion of blowing smoke up your a$$ as a cure for disease. And this concept has not died; it is practised regularly by most branches of government, most recently in attempting to cure us of disinformation.

I will quibble with one thought however in this quote attributed to Frankfurt–“the phenomenon [of bullshit] has not aroused much deliberate concern, or attracted much sustained inquiry. In consequence, we have no clear understanding of what bullshit is [and] why there is so much of it.” 

If we haven’t yet fully defined what it is we can’t know how much of it there is. Like most things in modern science, I suspect it’s worse than we thought.

Dave Fair
Reply to  Len Werner
May 24, 2022 8:29 pm

Bullshit is like obscenity: I can’t define it but I can smell it.

pigs_in_space
Reply to  Dave Fair
May 25, 2022 12:18 am

The corollary is “utter bollox”.
I prefer that to plain BS.

observa
May 24, 2022 5:57 pm

Ironically fossil fuels are a victim of their own success in permitting so many navel gazers and stinkers in residence. They have fostered the sustainability of so many BS artists. The only question now is when will the artists become victims of their own success in biting the hand that sustains them?

Mike Maguire
May 24, 2022 8:14 pm

Why Most Published Research Findings Are False(Bullshit)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1182327/

rhs
May 25, 2022 5:56 am

Models built on excrement, so it is excrement all the way down.

MGC
May 25, 2022 9:59 am

re: “up to 50% of the articles that are now being published in many interdisciplinary sustainability and transitions journals may be categorized as ‘scholarly bullshit.’ “

I wonder what percentage that an honest appraisal of WUWT articles would find. In my opinion, it would be far higher.

Richard Page
Reply to  MGC
May 25, 2022 2:47 pm

Possibly but your opinion, as ever, constitutes a part of the 50% so can be clearly identified as a circular argument of bullshit. I still fail to see what you add to the discussions.

MGC
Reply to  Richard Page
May 26, 2022 10:38 am

Richard, read more carefully please. I said articles not reader comments.

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