The Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Series B, has a new cover, a new colour and a new co-editor. As can be seen from the above shots, the colour is now a greenish ochre, with a picture of pedestrians on a brick plaza as a background, not much related to statistical methodology as far as I can tell. More importantly, the new co-editor for the coming four years is Piotr Fryzlewicz, professor at the London School of Economics, who will share the burden with Ingrid van Keilegom professor from UCL (Louvain-la-Neuve) who is now starting her third year… My friend, colleague and successor as Series B editor Gareth Roberts is now retiring after four years of hard work towards making Series B one of the top journals in Statistics. Thanks Gareth and best wishes to Ingrid and Piotr!
Archive for academic journals
Another email linked to the meta-spamming of pseudo-academic publications:
I feel pleasure to introduce our publications entitled “Oriental Journal of Computer Science and Technology” which is being published since last 6th years, under the banner of “Oriental Scientific Publishing Company”, Bhopal, India. T For maintaining the high standard of the journal, we always remain in search of researchers of repute of their respective fields, and with the same purpose I am inviting you to grace the Editorial Cum Advisory Board of our journal. You are supposed to review three-four articles per year and as per your will and convenience. We are eager to receive your acceptance and valuable suggestions for the improvement of the journal. I am pleased to announce that our reputed Editorial Cum Advisory Board member will enjoy concession rebate on the publication charges of their manuscripts.
It is amazing that they did not even check I am not in computer sciences! (Just considering the Editorial Board…)
*Springer* on a new *peer-reviewed, open access journal*
whose sole aim seems to generate more revenue for Springer. Indeed, papers published in this journal are charged $1025 each. Which is about the cost for a single subscription to the overpriced if scientifically excellent Statistics and Computing. (It takes a serious effort to discover the subscription rate of a Springer journal on their website!)
Indeed, I am quite surprised at a journal focussing on statistical distributions. What is a statistical distribution, exactly? The era when one would discover a new probability distribution in connection with a statistical estimation or testing problem and call it t, F, or Beta, seems long long gone! Just as gone as the production of statistical tables. (This is also why I wrote such a negative review of The Handbook of Fitting Distributions.) The webpage of the journal indicates that
The scopes include, but are not limited to, development and study of statistical distributions, frequentist and Bayesian statistical inference including goodness-of-fit tests, statistical modeling, computational/simulation methods, and data analysis related to statistical distributions. Significant and well-written articles on theory and methods in areas of statistical distributions and their applications will be considered for publication.
but this sounds so broad as to cover almost any statistical paper. So I am wondering at the purpose of this journal, except as an experimentation in “open access” commercial journals that are fully supported by the authors, in essence making grants pay twice for research.
I just arXived a survey entitled Bayesian computational tools in connection with a chapter the editors of the Annual Review of Statistics and Its Application asked me to write. (A puzzling title, I would have used Applications, not Application. Puzzling journal too: endowed with a prestigious editorial board, I wonder at the long-term perspectives of the review, once “all” topics have been addressed. At least, the “non-profit” aspect is respected: $100 for personal subscriptions and $250 for libraries, plus a one-year complimentary online access to volume 1.) Nothing terribly novel in my review, which illustrates some computational tool in some Bayesian settings, missing five or six pages to cover particle filters and sequential Monte Carlo. I however had fun with a double-exponential (or Laplace) example. This distribution indeed allows for a closed-form posterior distribution on the location parameter under a normal prior, which can be expressed as a mixture of truncated normal distributions. A mixture of (n+1) normal distributions for a sample of size n. We actually noticed this fact (which may already be well-known) when looking at our leading example in the consistent ABC choice paper, but it vanished from the appendix in the later versions. As detailed in the previous post, I also fought programming issues induced by this mixture, due to round-up errors in the most extreme components, until all approaches provided similar answers.
Following a discussion within the IMS publication committee and the coincidental publication of a central double page in Le Monde, weekend science&techno section [not that it was particularly informative!], here are some thoughts of mine on open access and publications:
First, the EU is philosophically inclined toward Open Access and has been putting some money into the game towards that goal:
As of 2014, all articles produced with funding from Horizon 2020 will have to be accessible: articles will
either immediately be made accessible online by the publisher (‘Gold’ open access) – up-front publication costs can be eligible for reimbursement by the European Commission;
or researchers will make their articles available through an open access repository no later than six months (12 months for articles in the fields of social sciences and humanities) after publication (‘Green’ open access).
This means that putting IMS publications on arXiv or on HAL (which is compulsory for CNRS and AERES evaluations, hence for most French public researchers, contrary to what Le Monde states) is fine and sufficient for EU funded research. It seems to be the same in other countries (ok, EU is not yet a country!) like Australia…
My personnal position on the issue is that I do not understand the ‘gold’ open access perspective. Since tax-payers are supporting public-funded research, why should they support the journals that publish this research if it is available on a public depository like arXiv for free? Simply because the publication in the journals gives a validation of the scientific contents? The argument was that it would save money on public libraries subscribing to expensive journals like Elsevier‘s, but paying the ‘gold’ open access is another way of redirecting tax-payers money towards publishers’ pockets, so this sounds like a loophole… I would thus be very much in favour of keeping the arXiv solution as is, since it is the greenest one, as long as we comply with local national regulations.
Following Nicolas’ guest-post on this ‘Og, plus Andrew’s and mine’s, we took advantage of Kerrie Mengersen visiting Paris to write a common piece on the future of the refereeing system and on our proposals to improve it from within. Rather than tearing the whole thing down. In particular, one idea is to make writing referees’ reports part of the academic vitas, by turning them into discussions of published papers. Another one is to achieve some training of referees, by setting refereeing codes and more formalised steps. Yet another one is to federate reports rather than repeating the process one journal at a time for the unlucky ones… The resulting paper has now appeared on arXiv and has just been submitted (I am rather uncertain about the publication chances of this paper, given it is an opinion column, rather than a research paper…! It has already been rejected
once, twice, three five times!)
Statisfaction made me realise I had missed the latest ISBA Bulletin when I read what Julyan posted about Larry’s tribune on a World without referees. While I agree on many of Larry’s points, first and foremost on his criticisms of the refereeing process which seems to worsen and worsen, here are a few items of dissension…
The argument that the system is 350 years old and thus must be replaced may be ok at the rethoretical level, but does not carry any serious weight! First, what is the right scale for a change: 100 years?! 200 years?! Should I burn down my great-grand-mother’s house because it is from the 1800’s and buy a camping-car instead?! Should I smash my 1690 Stradivarius and buy a Fender Stratocaster?! Further, given the intensity and the often under-the-belt level of the Newton vs. Leibniz dispute, maybe refereeing and publishing in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society should have been abolished right away from the start. Anyway, this is about rethoric, not matter. (Same thing about the wine store ellipse. It is not even a good one: Indeed, when I go to a wine store, I have to rely on (a) well-known brands; (b) brands I have already tried and appreciated; (c) someone else’s advice, like the owner, or friends, or Robert Parker…. In the former case, it can prove great or disastrous. But this is the most usual way to pick wines as one cannot hope [dream?] to sample all wines in the shop.)
My main issue with doing away with referees is the problem of sifting through the chaff. The amount of research documents published everyday is overwhelming. There is a maximal amount of time I can dedicate to looking at websites, blogs, twitter accounts like Scott Sisson’s and Richard Everitt’s, and such. And there clearly is a limited amount of trust I put in the opinions expressed in a blog (e.g., take the ‘Og where this anonymous X’racter writes about everything, mostly non-scientific stuff, and reviews papers with a definite bias!) Even keeping track of new arXiv postings sometimes get overwhelming. So, Larry’s “if you don’t check arXiv for new papers every day, then you are really missing out” means to me that missing arXiv for a few days and I cannot recover. One week away at an intense workshop or on vacations and I am letting some papers going by forever, even though I carry them in my bag for a while…. Noll’s suggestion to publish only on one’s own website is even more unrealistic: why should anyone bother to comment on poor or wrong papers, except when looking for ‘Og’s fodder?! So the fundamental problem is separating the wheat from the chaff, given the amount of chaff and the connected tendency to choke on it! Getting rid of referees and journals to rely on depositories like [the great, terrific, essential] arXiv forces me to also rely on other sources for ranking, selecting, and eliminating papers. Again with a component of arbitrariness, subjectivity, bias, variation, randomness, peer pressure, &tc. In addition, having no prior check of papers means reading a new paper a tremendous chore as one would have to check the references as well, leading to a sort of infinite regress… and forcing one to rely on reputation and peer opinions, once again! And imagine the inflation in reference letters! I already feel I have to write too many reference letters at the moment, but a world without (good and bad) journals would be the Hell of non-stop reference letters. I definitely prefer to referee (except for Elsevier!) and even more being a journal editor, because I can get an idea of the themes in the field and sometimes spot new trends, rather than writing over and over again about an old friend’s research achievements or having to assess from scratch the worth of a younger colleague’s work…
Furthermore, and this is a more general issue, I do not believe that the multiplication of blogs, websites, opinion posts, tribunes, &tc., is necessarily a “much more open, democratic approach”: everyone voicing an opinion on the Internet does not always get listened to and the loudest ones (or most popular ones) are not always the most reliable ones. A complete egalitarian principle means everyone talks/writes and no one listens/reads: I’d rather stick to the principles set by the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society!
Anyway, thanks to Larry for launching a worthwhile debate into discovering new ways of making academia a more rational and scientific place!