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Author Topic: A question about evidence standards and email correspondence  (Read 8230 times)
jpw234
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« on: August 21, 2013, 09:29:56 AM »

Hi, I'd like to submit a question about the usability of evidence obtained in email correspondence, in part to placate my coach but also to get some guidance.
I came across an abstract for an article posted on a scholarly website which seemed to directly address the portion of the topic I was researching. However I found no link to the full text of the article, not just on that website but on the web or in any library catalogs. Eventually I emailed the given author of the article requesting the full text and promptly received it, which was great. It did in fact have several outstanding cards that I very much would like to be reading in upcoming tournaments.
However I ran into trouble creating my citation, as I couldn't find the paper online. I emailed back asking if the paper had been published, and if not, would the author be okay with me releasing it on a public forum. He replied: "Yes, please go ahead and feel free to post it in the debate forum" but noted that it was "still being updated for future review by law reviews for publications".
My current plan is to post this paper a few days before our first tournament, in my citation link that post, and read this evidence, with the plan of recutting the article as soon as it is posted in case any substantial changes have been made. While the author is quite qualified and I will express that in round, I wouldn't claim that it had been peer reviewed and would be transparent about any questions involving the method of obtaining the evidence. I didn't ask any leading questions to affect the evidence nor am I using my correspondence as evidence, just the paper that the professor had already written. Does this seem legitimate? Does anybody have any opinions for how I should release this evidence or whether I should use it in a debate round?
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JonZ
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« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2013, 09:38:24 AM »

I don't see a reason to post the evidence before you break it in-round. After that, yes you should make sure the full text is easily available, but why put it up a couple days early? Have a copy on your flash drive/dropbox/as hard copy if the other team wants to review the whole article during the round. And yes do keep up with any updates if/when they come out.

As for whether or not lack of peer review matters, let that be an argument the other team makes. If it comes up in-round, debate it. Lack of peer review is not going to be grounds for a serious ethical challenge. At most it'll be an evidence indict, and probably not a very good one.
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jpw234
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« Reply #2 on: August 21, 2013, 10:27:44 AM »

As far as posting before the round, my (and my coach's) concern is that we currently have what is basically privileged access to the paper. It's not easily available to people we may be debating and this could be considered an unfair advantage (i.e. it would be impossible through normal research for them to come across this card). If you don't think that's a concern, perhaps I will withhold it until after we break it.
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kearney
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« Reply #3 on: August 21, 2013, 01:15:11 PM »

Just throwing this out there b/c my opinion on this has recently emerged, and I haven't had many chances to air it out:

I think there are two reasons for "email evidence:" 1) to advance the search for truth, and 2) to advance debate strategy. More often than not, debaters disregard the "search for truth" b/c they care about winning and judges have developed a form of "debate calculus" that privileges unrealistic impacts. If you agree with this assumption, then, I think, debaters should either avoid 'email ev.' altogether or make that evidence public (and very accessible) as soon as possible.

I realize that debaters can benefit from corresponding with authors, but some problems arise here as well. Debaters often direct authors toward favorable answers. They NEVER post responses that undermine their arguments. And, there's an opportunity cost insofar as debaters might also benefit from digging deeper into research (reading more articles, thinking outside the box, etc.).

The DA to the private or quasi-public/late-breaking blog post seems more persuasive to me. Well-researched debaters might focus their strategies on weak points in the lit, while other teams can capitalize by "breaking new" with their email ev. I know that every squad doesn't have access to every journal or book, but there's still a chance that debaters can contact friends at other universities that carry those sources. It just seems...not ideal...to rely on email ev. and/or its lack of publicity.

I'm eager to see what other people think.
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JonZ
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« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2013, 02:08:26 PM »

But this isn't "email evidence" in the sense that s/he had a private correspondence which is being used as evidence. It's a paper that will soon be publicly available which s/he received an advance copy of. It strikes me as being no different from any other legitimate piece of evidence - jpw234 just went ahead and took the initiative to see it before everyone else. There's nothing stopping others from doing the same (which is not the case with email evidence).
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jpw234
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« Reply #5 on: August 21, 2013, 02:30:50 PM »

Yeah, kearney, you might have misunderstood the post or just read the subject line - I'm not planning on quoting my email correspondence, I simply received (through email) a copy of a paper which has not yet been published.
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kearney
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« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2013, 03:09:56 PM »

"And THAT'S why you always read more than the first line of a post"

Sorry about that Smiley

I do agree with your coach that this should be posted before it's read in a debate round. I'm not saying you have to identify yourself or your school, but any opposing team should have SOME kind of access to it. I know many sources are not realistically accessible to schools b/c of geography or database permissions, but it's still possible. A *responsible* debater might even include a note on the cite that the article has yet to be submitted to the peer review process.

fwiw, I'd still be interested to hear people's thoughts about email ev.
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Jessica Kurr
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« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2013, 04:09:11 PM »

The original post indicated that the author said the work was going to be updated for law reviews, which indicates that the work is incomplete. While there is the possibility of the in round evidence fight, that is contingent on the debate citation indicating that a) its not published yet and b) its being updated. Those updates are could be (in)significant for the debate round.

This is distinct from a paper that has been accepted for a journal and the issue of the journal simply hasn't been released yet. For instance, the winter copies of many journals are already proofed and the pdfs have been circulated to authors. This is common with some Taylor/Francis journal that publish accepted pieces currently in the proofing process.

These two examples are separate steps in the publishing process. One will see very minor revisions (cite format, pagination, grammar, etc.). The other has content revisions. As for access, this is very distinct from noticing an abstract "might" relate to the topic and being able to find the text of an article. Saying this is the same as any other piece of evidence is simply incorrect.
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JonZ
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« Reply #8 on: August 21, 2013, 06:21:58 PM »

Kearney -

I don't understand the request that jpw234 post it before the round. What unfair advantage is gained by not posting it? If someone stumbles across the article's cite before the round as jpw234 did, they'll be in the exact same position jpw234 was. Their "access" to the article is just the same. If they take the initiative to email the author requesting the paper, good for them. If they move on and give up, then they're not as good a researcher and should not be rewarded. I see no obligation to make the article more accessible for his/her competitors than it was for him/her.
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jgonzo
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« Reply #9 on: August 21, 2013, 06:43:42 PM »

The article must absolutely be posted in a public space for it to count as evidence that I would consider in a debate. Anything else incentivizes the absolutely worst form of debating imaginable - one prefaced on exclusivity and "gotcha" arguments. I don't even understand why this is a discussion.

Take literally every argument in favor of open source, amplify it one hundred fold and then take away any decent argument against open source. Then, make the question of context undecipherable. Add on top of that the incredible ease with which teams could fabricate an article, lift a card from it, then offer it to other teams "in round" but not put it online.

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Jessica Kurr
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« Reply #10 on: August 21, 2013, 07:00:47 PM »

Their "access" to the article is just the same. If they take the initiative to email the author requesting the paper, good for them.

This is false. The same person could email the author a month later and get the same article but with additional/removed paragraphs. The author said the article will likely be updated before it is sent for review. That not only means it is unpublished, it is also unfinished.

If this is the standard for evidence, I'm in the process of submitting a piece on presidential rhetoric and Guantanamo Bay to a major journal. If you search hard enough, you could probably find the abstract for an older version of it on a past NCA program (As an aside, if this paper is for some reason available on NCA's website, I would not be comfortable with it being used in any capacity debate or academic). I see zero reason why these two examples are distinct in any way.
« Last Edit: August 21, 2013, 07:04:39 PM by Jeff K » Logged
mcmc
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« Reply #11 on: August 21, 2013, 08:02:15 PM »

So, we used to do this quite a bit. The way we did it was establish an evidence blog, a link to which was posted either to the forums or wiki (I forget which one) and post the full text of the email, article, etc... on the website. The one exception to this was when someone had an accepted article at a journal whose publication was immanent. They requested we not post the whole article, but rather just excerpts. So we put the full text of the parts of the evidence that we were reading from, with a description that anyone who wanted could e-mail us and we would send them a full text copy of the article. If the author doesn't mind put the whole article up.
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Paul Elliott Johnson
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« Reply #12 on: August 21, 2013, 08:20:55 PM »

Related to how Kearney misunderstood the question: can we agree that there should be a positive obligation to notify the community (maybe via the ceda forums and Facebook) when you email an author to get cards? I am persuaded that author emailing contributes positively towards building more nuanced and interesting debates, but really struggle to see the value in the erosion of transparency.*

*I understand their are some squads who consider their opacity to be a strategic move in order to tactically move on a terrain of debate/competition that they consider hostile to their being. I am not sure they have the same obligation.
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ksommers
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« Reply #13 on: August 21, 2013, 08:38:21 PM »

I'm not saying that the following is a perfect model by any means, but it may at least be helpful to know how another team addressed similar concerns. Last year the George Washington/UDC-CC debate team produced a fair amount of evidence (including our affirmative solvency advocate) via in-person and email interviews. We posted the interviews on a central website (http://debateandtherealworld.com/articles.php) and mentioned in the card citation that the evidence was produced in an interview and listed the names of the people conducting the interview. We always posted the evidence before reading it in round and received feedback from several judges that it would not be permissible to read the evidence if it wasn't publicly available at the time it was read. Another key component of our practice was that we posted the questions we asked the interviewee. This is important because many debaters complained that the practice could be manipulated by debaters asking "leading questions." Being able to point to the question asked is helpful in asserting the legitimacy of the evidence. Throughout the year we had several teams make theoretical objections to the evidence and and several judges (on their own initiative) gave the evidence less weight. On the whole, however, we found it to be an incredibly useful practice both in terms of competitive success and debate pedagogy.
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JonZ
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Posts: 29


« Reply #14 on: August 21, 2013, 08:39:25 PM »

Quote
Take literally every argument in favor of open source, amplify it one hundred fold and then take away any decent argument against open source. Then, make the question of context undecipherable. Add on top of that the incredible ease with which teams could fabricate an article, lift a card from it, then offer it to other teams "in round" but not put it online.

Open source arguments are about evidence that's already been read. I don't know of any "open source good" arguments that also make the case that all new affs should be disclosed as soon as written, which is what pre-round posting demands. As for evidence falsification, you could still post a fake article before the round and claim the author emailed it to you before.

Quote
This is false. The same person could email the author a month later and get the same article but with additional/removed paragraphs. The author said the article will likely be updated before it is sent for review. That not only means it is unpublished, it is also unfinished.

Honestly, this is something I hadn't thought about. But...if a later version has a paragraph added, that's obviously not harmful to the person receiving the updated version. If, however, a section is removed or rewritten, that is an issue. In that case, it's the obligation of jpw234 (or whoever is reading the evidence) to stay up to date on what the latest version of the article says. Otherwise you're not citing "so-and-so's article this-and-that." Again, however, like the faking-evidence argument, it's not intrinsic. Posting the article before your round will not affect whether or not you read out of date cards. Only staying up to date on the latest version of the paper will do that, and that is not affected by when you disclose the evidence.

Quote
If this is the standard for evidence, I'm in the process of submitting a piece on presidential rhetoric and Guantanamo Bay to a major journal. If you search hard enough, you could probably find the abstract for an older version of it on a past NCA program

Reading older versions of that paper would be a problem with an individual staying up to date on what their author says, and not their pre, post, or in-round evidence sharing practices.

Quote
can we agree that there should be a positive obligation to notify the community (maybe via the ceda forums and Facebook) when you email an author to get cards? I am persuaded that author emailing contributes positively towards building more nuanced and interesting debates, but really struggle to see the value in the erosion of transparency.

Yes. Why not have an "author email disclosure" section right here on CEDAForums? Then people won't have to hunt down every team's individual blog and try to keep constant tabs on them.



At this point, it appears that (once again) I, compared to the rest of the community, am far more lax in my interpretation of what is and is not ethical with evidence. So I'd advise jpw234 to post the whole thing online if the goal is to avoid controversy.
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