There was a lively discussion on Twitter the other day regarding what constitutes a citable piece of scientific work. In particular, Matthew Hahn was concerned about where to draw the line, and he felt that unless something is traditionally published there’s no need to cite it. When reading this dicussion, I felt it was muddled by the lack of clear criteria separating citable works from other forms of scientific communication. In my mind, there is a clear distinction between preprints, which I consider to be citable works, and presentation slides or tweets, which are not. To formalize this distinction, I would like to propose four conditions that need to be satisfied for a document to be considered a citable piece of scientific work. The document needs to be: (i) uniquely and unambiguously citable; (ii) available in perpetuity, in unchanged form; (iii) accessible to the public; (iv) self-contained and complete.Read More
PLOS ONE just published a paper comparing MS Word with LaTeX, which argues that LaTeX has little benefits over MS Word and should not be allowed by scientific journals:
Knauff M, Nejasmic J (2014) An Efficiency Comparison of Document Preparation Systems Used in Academic Research and Development. PLoS ONE 9(12): e115069.
In my mind, this paper makes extremely strong claims based on a rather flawed and thin analysis. I am sure there are useful things to be said about MS Word vs. LaTeX. However, this paper does not make much of a contribution to this question.Read More
In my previous post on how to prepare an article for resubmission, I failed to mention one important point: In your response to the reviewers, quote the entire referee report, even the introductory sentences. Don’t just quote the specific comments to which you are replying. This may seem unnecessary but it is in fact crucial, in particular if the introductory sentences were largely positive. (If they were highly critical, you may want to omit them, even though in this case you probably should provide a response.)Read More
I came across an interesting paper* that derives a mathematical relationship between the total number of citations a scientist has received, Ntot, and the scientist’s h index**. The paper, written by Alexander Yong, argues that for typical scientists, h is given simply as 0.54 times the square-root of Ntot. The paper also derives confidence bounds on this estimate, and it shows that scientists who have written only a few highly-cited works will generally fall below this estimate. While the paper is set up as a critique of the h index, I think it shows that the h index works largely as intended. It measures the total amount of citations a researcher has received, but it adequately down-weighs the effect of a few extremely highly cited works in a researcher’s publication list.Read More
So your latest scientific masterpiece has come back from review with the most likely outcome other than rejection: major revision. The reviewers and the editor think that your work has merit, but they also have a long list of comments and criticism that they expect you to address before the article is acceptable for publication. You read the reviews and you feel like they lay out two years worth of work. How do you best deal with this situation?Read More
Google Scholar has a serious bug when it comes to preprints. If you have published a preprint of your paper, the later journal publication can be completely invisible to Google Scholar, seemingly absent from their entire database. Even a search for the exact article title will not find the article. And this condition remains for months. (It will eventually fix itself, though. After about a year.) I have now seen this bug in action for several of my papers, and I am confident it’s a reproducible flaw and not a one-off. I reported the issue to the Google Scholar team about a year ago (or at least, I filled in some web form that seemed to be designed to send them feedback) but I have received no response and the bug clearly still exists. I hope that with this blog-post I can draw some attention to this serious issue, so we can have it fixed. Thousands of scientists rely on Google Scholar every day. For many recent articles, this bug will steer these scientists towards outdated, early versions and make the authoritative article versions completely inaccessible.
As part of the recent discussion on anonymous peer review, several people spoke out in favor of double-blind peer review, where neither the authors nor the reviewers know who the others are. I have thought a lot about double-blind peer review, and I’m not entirely convinced, in particular when it comes to grant applications. While double-blind review might solve certain problems and remove certain biases, it would almost certainly amplify other issues, and whether the net effect would be good or bad is unclear. It would also give more power to people such as editors and program managers who operate outside the blinded process.Read More
One of the key challenges in obtaining a PhD is scheduling a committee meeting. In fact, I think that anybody who has managed to successfully schedule three or four committee meetings probably deserves a PhD just for that feat. After all, getting five professors into the same room at the same time is a tall order. Since scheduling committee meetings is such an integral part of graduate education, there should probably be a class on how to do this successfully. However, I don’t think any such class exists. So maybe this blog post can serve as a substitute.Read More