The Importance of Reviewing Earnestly

The biweekly journal Current Science was founded in 1932 by the Current Science Association in collaboration with the Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore.

In recent years, the journal has emerged as a very public - and very lively- forum for the discussion of ideas, not just on science, but on science management, science education, and science policy. Articles by leaders in these areas dominate the first few pages of the journal which spectacularly lives up to its mandate as " a medium for communication and discussion of important issues that concern science and scientific activity. "

Some of the vitality in these spheres comes from the Editors of the journal: P Balaram, who has served as editor for the past several years, and who is presently (and very ably!) assisted by Niranjan Joshi, K R Rao and K S Gandhi.

Current Science editorials are usually a treat to read- provocative and thought provoking at the best of times. And this week is not an exception, and in the piece entitled Writers and Readers Balaram talks of the importance of Book Reviews. Of course the editorial is about many things, but some of them struck enough chords to warrant this post. About which more later. (By the way, the journal is Open Access and anyone can download any of the online articles. Clicking on the above link will get you a pdf file of the editorial in question.)

Quoting Maddox, Balaram points out that "‘the scientific community, any intellectual community, has reason to be grateful to reviewers’. The requirements of a book review, according to Maddox, is that they ‘should be essays in sympathetic understanding, marked sometimes with sorrow, rarely with anger’. " And elsewhere in the article, "For avid readers, who are hard pressed for time, a review may help in deciding whether a book is worth pursuing. The difficulties (and expense) of getting one’s hands on some titles in India cannot be underestimated, making well-written reviews invaluable. Reviewers who are knowledgeable about the subject and its history can sometimes provide insights that are lacking in the book itself. "

This is something that we at SwB are seriously concerned about and our review Lists are designed around this concern. All too often one reads reviews of books that one immediately wishes to have. And that is difficult for one of several reasons....
  • A bookstore is not close at hand (which is most often the case anywhere in India).
  • The information about the book is incomplete (including the dreaded phrase "Price not stated", which usually means that the price could be $100 or so...).
  • The book in question comes from an obscure press (finding which, or finding a distributor for which is more trouble than seems worthwhile).
From time to time we list all the books reviewed in Current Science (and in selected other magazines- see the Review Lists on our site), especially if the books in question are published in India. Obscure or otherwise. We do believe that you should be able to get the books you want, and would like to make the process simple. Try it- write in to us for any book reviewed anywhere.

The journal itself is quite a bargain. Subscriptions can be made (of course-) via Scholars: here!