James Mullooly invented the word Scrogg, meaning something along the line of “anthropologist who catch geneticists playing fast and loose with the data.” In my experience, Scrogging is fairly easy to do on open-source turf of the Biological Sciences journals where there are often places for comments. These comments are typically reviewed by editors, and while not strictly “peer-reviewed,” would in my mind contribute to the academic record of aspiring academics. The editors I have had contact here and here were fair and open to critiques of articles which were well-done technically, but missed out on a more social scientific perspective, as do many articles about human population genetics. The editors were quick to respond to me—it seems the biological sciences are much quicker than the social scientific journals at making editorial decisions.
I got away with two Scroggings because population geneticists wrote about a group that I knew just a little about, the Mlabri of Thailand. But I knew enough to know that lab-based geneticists who missed key points, and did not cite standard ethnographies. I am sure that there are many sociologists, anthropologists, and others who have similar experiences with geneticists writing about groups with which they are familiar. What I would encourage you to do is to go into Google Scholar, and PubMed and search for genetic studies of ethnic groups you are familiar with as a result of your field and library work. Then evaluate carefully how the data (typically blood samples) was handled on its way to the lab. Does the “sample” reflect social relations on the ground? Is it consistent with historical, geographical, and anthropological data with which you are familiar? If not, the article deserves a carefully written Scrogg highlighting how conclusions might have been different if anthropological data were also considered.
Scrogging by cultural anthropologists should result in a number of well-reasoned postings. More to the point, it is hoped that geneticists will be more careful about how they handle data, and editors more consistently solicit ethnographers and cultural anthropologists as peer reviewers. While scrogging, of course, be as narrow, precise, and gracious as possible given the circumstances. The point is not to embarrass, but to highlight the importance of cultural anthropology and qualitative data in evaluating populations.
Tony Waters is czar and editor of Ethnography.com. He came to us from the Sociology department at California State University at Chico where he has been a professor since 1996. In 2016 though he suddenly found himself with a new gig at Payap University in northern Thailand where he is on the faculty of the Peace Studies Department. He has also been a guest professor in Germany, and Tanzania. In the past, his main interests have been international development and refugees in Thailand, Tanzania, and California. This reflects a former career in the Peace Corps (Thailand), and refugee camps (Thailand and Tanzania). His books include: Crime and Immigrant Youth (1999), Bureaucratizing the Good Samaritan (2001), The Persistence of Subsistence Agriculture: Life Beneath of the Marketplace (2007), When Killing is a Crime (2007), and Schooling, Bureaucracy, and Childhood: Bureaucratizing the Child (2012). His hobby is trying to learn strange languages–and the mistakes that that implies. Tony is a prolific academic, you can read more of his work at academia.edu.or purchase one (or more!) of his books from Amazon.com.