Science; Sociology and institution design for

Scientist, falsify thyself

Upon the thing that I presume academic publishing is supposed to do: further science. Reputation system and other mechanisms for trust in science, a.k.a. collective knowledge for reality itself.

I would like to consider the system of peer review, networking, conferencing, publishing and acclaim and see how closely it approximates an ideal system for uncovering truth, and further, imagine how we could make a better system. But I do not do that right now, I just collect some provocative links to that theme, in hope of time for more thought later.

Vesaelius pioneers scientific review by peering Used under licence from the University of Basel

Open review processes, practical

pubpeer (who are behind peeriodicals) produces a peer-review overlay for web browsers to spread their commentary and peer critique more widely. The site is itself brusquely confusing, but well blogged; you’ll get the idea. They are not afraid of invective, and I thought they looked more amateurish than effective. But I was wrong; they are quite selective and they seem to be near the best elective peer review today.🎶 This system been implicated in topical high-profile retractions (e.g. 1 2.

Mathematical models of the reviewing process

e.g. Cole, Jr, and Simon (1981); Lindsey (1988); Ragone et al. (2013); Shah et al. (2016); Whitehurst (1984).

The experimental data from Neurips experiments is intersting too. See e.g. Shah et al. (2016) or a blog post on the 2014 experiment (1, 2).

Economics of publishing

See academic publishing.

Mechanism desoign for peer review process

There is some fun mechanism design in this, e.g. Charlin and Zemel (2013); Gasparyan et al. (2015); Jan (n.d.); Merrifield and Saari (2009); Solomon (2007); Xiao, Dörfler, and van der Schaar (2014); Xu, Zhao, and Shi (n.d.).

Here is an interesting edge case in peer review and scientific reputation. Adam Becker, Junk Science or the Real Thing? ‘Inference’ Publishes Both. As far as I’m concerned, publishing crap in itself is not a catastrophic. A process that fails to discourage crap would be bad.

How well does academia gatekeep?

(Baldwin 2018):

This essay traces the history of refereeing at specialist scientific journals and at funding bodies and shows that it was only in the late twentieth century that peer review came to be seen as a process central to scientific practice. Throughout the nineteenth century and into much of the twentieth, external referee reports were considered an optional part of journal editing or grant making. The idea that refereeing is a requirement for scientific legitimacy seems to have arisen first in the Cold War United States. In the 1970s, in the wake of a series of attacks on scientific funding, American scientists faced a dilemma: there was increasing pressure for science to be accountable to those who funded it, but scientists wanted to ensure their continuing influence over fundingonline decisions. Scientists and their supporters cast expert refereeing—or “peer review,” as it was increasingly called—as the crucial process that ensured the credibility of science as a whole. Taking funding decisions out of expert hands, they argued, would be a corruption of science itself. This public elevation of peer review both reinforced and spread the belief that only peer-reviewed science was scientifically legitimate.

Thomas Basbøll says

It is commonplace today to talk about “knowledge production” and the university as a site of innovation. But the institution was never designed to “produce” something nor even to be especially innovative. Its function was to conserve what we know. It just happens to be in the nature of knowledge that it cannot be conserved if it does not grow.

Andrew Marzoni, Academia is a cult. Adam Becker on the assumptions and pathologies revealed by Wolfram’s latest branding and positioning:

So why did Wolfram announce his ideas this way? Why not go the traditional route? “I don’t really believe in anonymous peer review,” he says. “I think it’s corrupt. It’s all a giant story of somewhat corrupt gaming, I would say. I think it’s sort of inevitable that happens with these very large systems. It’s a pity.”

So what are Wolfram’s goals? He says he wants the attention and feedback of the physics community. But his unconventional approach—soliciting public comments on an exceedingly long paper—almost ensures it shall remain obscure. Wolfram says he wants physicists’ respect. The ones consulted for this story said gaining it would require him to recognize and engage with the prior work of others in the scientific community.

And when provided with some of the responses from other physicists regarding his work, Wolfram is singularly unenthused. “I’m disappointed by the naivete of the questions that you’re communicating,” he grumbles. “I deserve better.”

Style guide for reviews and rebuttals

See scientific writing.


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