Wow, Endeavor is up from 0.167 to 0.245! That makes my lone contribution to the journal (a book review a number of years ago) much more visible and valuable! One thing that puzzles me, though, is why did they send me this particular list of journals? I can understand if Elsevier has in its database that I have published recently in the Jr. of Anth. Archy and Jr. Historical Geography. But how did they link me up with Endeavor, from one book review nine years ago? There are literally hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Michael Smiths out there publishing in academic journals. Are they looking at my website? Or perhaps the data are from ResearcherID? (I'm not sure if the book review is listed there or not).
Listed by highest Impact Factor
In any case, this provides a link to my second topic, scholars who don't cite the literature. I was reading a review of a book by S.N.Eisenstadt by Charles Tilly, who took the author to task for leaving out large bodies of relevant literature (the review is republished in Tilly's excelent book, Explaining Social Processes). This reminded me of my contribution to the journal Endeavor, a review of Ross Hassig's book, Time, History and Belief in Aztec and Colonial Mexico. Hassig has some interesting ideas about how Aztec calendars were linked to political processes, and I find his materialist explanation of various calendrical issues congenial.
However, Hassig's methods leave something to be desired. He analyzes the primary sources well, evaluates them against one another, and reaches his conclusions, which seem reasonable on the basis of his argument. However, he completely ignores the secondary literature on those topics. For example, from his discussion of whether the Aztecs added a day to their annual calendar every four years (leap years) to account for the length of the solar year, one would never know that this is a contentious issue, with much debate and many publications by specialists. And since much of this literature draws on sources and concepts and methods not covered by Hassig, his discussion is incomplete and out of step with the literature. Some of his conclusions match consensus views, and some are out in left field, but a non-specialist reader (perhaps someone interested in Babylonian calendars) would never know which is which.
So, who should one pay attention to? Ross Hassig (generally a very good scholar), or the larger body of specialist literature that he does not cite? In science, the results of research are judged by a community of scholars (Calleigh 2000; Harris 1979:chapter 1). This is an amorphous group of individuals, who express themselves in publications, peer reviewing, lectures, emails, conversations over beers, and (increasingly), blogs. Hassig's work would be more convincing if he could show that his conclusions are not contradicted by the findings of other scholars. I don't claim to understand the details of Aztec or Mesoamerican calendrics (a ridiculously complicated topic), but I do trust the community of scholars more than I trust a single author laboring in isolation. And Hassig's contributions to the community of scholars would be greater if he engaged with the research of the rest of the specialists (e.g., Anthony Aveni, Hanns Prem, Edward Calnek, Michel Graulich, Rafael Tena).
Yes, scholars often work alone. But our research is part of broader disciplinary and transdisciplinary contexts, and it is judged not by absolute standards but the the relevant communities of scholars. We should all cite the literature, and frown on those who choose not to.
Calleigh, Addeane S.
2000 Community of Scholars. Academic Medicine 75(9):912.
1979 Cultural Materialism: The Struggle of a Science of Cultures. Random House, New York.