Buildings are not romantic but research can be

Mithra Moezzi responds to Richard Lorch’s End of an Era article.

My science classes in 7th and 8th grade, taught by “Mr. Van” Herwynen, led me to think of research as careful, refined, and about value and outcomes, not ego. The romantic ideal from middle school has not been easy to find in my day to day. Building Research & Information has been comforting in this regard. It does not flinch in publishing critical results; it respects those who work on and with buildings from outside the academy; it enters nooks, crannies, and atmospheres of how buildings and building research work; reviewers are treated gratefully and humanely, which reinforces a desire to give back in kind. My first question is how the culture and strengths of the current editorship can continue to be fostered in research and professional communities or can be remembered until there is space to re-adopt.

Richard mentions rapid change in the discoverability of research articles. It is now easy to access a dozen new articles or reports every week that one feels one should read — though my reading rate is lower. My second question is thus about how researchers and professionals read, and how or if we, as individuals and institutions, can temper seduction to celebrity articles, symbolic bibliographies, or low-care adoption of catchy vocabulary or flash. The seduction is understandable within current reward systems and limited bandwidth, but it can substitute for progress. To manage the onslaught of things to read, the absorption of which seems impossible and even ill-advised, we need a place where we know that rigorous reviewing, without mindless gatekeeping, has been applied. Richard and his editorial board have provided that shelter.

moezzi headshot


Mithra Moezzi is a research affiliate of Portland State University in Portland, Oregon and an independent researcher (Ghoulem Research, QQForward).

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