This is a masterful extended essay spanning so many topics and ideas, yet in an accessible and readable manner. Kudos to the author!
Responses to OUP questions:
1. Overall, do the organization and progression of the book make sense? How could the structure be improved?
The organization is quite sensible, with each chapter building on the earlier ones.
2. Are the core arguments clear? Are they convincing and well-supported? Are these insights original? What would help?
The core arguments are clear, and most assuredly this book is very much needed. We rank everything, with little understanding of what we are doing. This book explains what is happening step-by-step. It shows the underlying bases for our seeming need to rank stuff and lays out the human dynamics that produce this need. That makes the book both focused AND intellectually sweeping. A real tour de force.
Because it is both focused and intellectually sweeping, I have one major suggestion. So many issues are addressed, and all are relevant to the book, but I think the author could more explicitly draw us back to where he is going—that is, show the reader the relevance of the material to the fundamental ideas I’m getting—lists, rankings, ratings, and competing criteria for them. Kind of several very brief internal summaries (that is, internal to the chapters) and pointers toward where we are going. I’ve tried to suggest in my specific suggestions where and sometimes how this might be done. As I’ll say now and will reiterate later, the book could be published as is and be a fine piece of work. But as Erdi would say, any of our work can be improved.
One device to do this is the Lessons Learned section at the end of chapter 2—great idea.
But it is not followed through in subsequent chapters. Maybe the author should consider adding for each chapter? Maybe Chapter Takeaways instead of Lessons Learned—the latter sounds too professorial.
Also I wonder if the reader needs a little explicit nudging toward where the book is going. For example, surely comparisons are central to rankings, and Chapter 2 does a fine job of showing case-by-case how these comparisons are subjective (and selective on the criteria we use for the rank). But the connection between comparisons and ranks is maybe not as clear as it could be. Repetition is the key to learning, and reputation that refers back to a point made earlier when an example of it is used later is particularly effective. Academic citations are (probably) a power distribution, a form of skewed distribution, so why not remind the reader of the earlier discussion? Then one gets an “aha” reaction—now I get it!
3. Is there anything related to the scholarship of this work that we, outside the field, might not notice as a potential problem? Are the references up to date? Is the author engaged in the most current conversation on the topic?
Sure seems so to me. I’ve noted a couple of scholars in my own field who might be mentioned, but certainly nothing major.
4. Are there any glaring omissions? Is any material superfluous?
There are no glaring omissions to my knowledge, and the author is a master of bringing in only the relevant material.
5. Who would find this book useful and interesting? Whom do you see as the primary readership?
This book will definitely appeal to a general audience, and should be marketed that way.
6. What is your “bottom line” assessment of the project? Aside from copyediting, is the manuscript ready to be published in its current state? What are your specific recommendations for the author?
Yes, I heartily recommend publication. It’s ready, but as I noted above, it can be even stronger with a modest level of effort.
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