Archive for promotion

MCqMC 2016 acknowledgement

Posted in Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , on August 1, 2016 by xi'an

mcqmc

Here is a very nice inclusion about the ‘Og by the organisers of MCqMC 2016.

books versus papers [for PhD students]

Posted in Books, Kids, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , on July 7, 2012 by xi'an

Before I run out of time, here is my answer to the ISBA Bulletin Students’ corner question of the term: “In terms of publications and from your own experience, what are the pros and cons of books vs journal articles?

While I started on my first book during my postdoctoral years in Purdue and Cornell [a basic probability book made out of class notes written with Arup Bose, which died against the breakers of some referees’ criticisms], my overall opinion on this is that books are never valued by hiring and promotion committees for what they are worth! It is a universal constant I met in the US, the UK and France alike that books are not helping much for promotion or hiring, at least at an early stage of one’s career. Later, books become a more acknowledge part of senior academics’ vitae. So, unless one has a PhD thesis that is ready to be turned into a readable book without having any impact on one’s publication list, and even if one has enough material and a broad enough message at one’s disposal, my advice is to go solely and persistently for journal articles. Besides the above mentioned attitude of recruiting and promotion committees, I believe this has several positive aspects: it forces the young researcher to maintain his/her focus on specialised topics in which she/he can achieve rapid prominence, rather than having to spend [quality research] time on replacing the background and building reference. It provides an evaluation by peers of the quality of her/his work, while reviews of books are generally on the light side. It is the starting point for building a network of collaborations, few people are interested in writing books with strangers (when knowing it is already quite a hardship with close friends!). It is also the entry to workshops and international conferences, where a new book very rarely attracts invitations.

Writing a book is of course exciting and somewhat more deeply rewarding, but it is awfully time-consuming and requires a high level of organization young faculty members rarely possess when starting a teaching job at a new university (with possibly family changes as well!). I was quite lucky when writing The Bayesian Choice and Monte Carlo Statistical Methods to mostly be on leave from teaching, as it would have otherwise be impossible! That we are not making sufficient progress on our revision of Bayesian Core, started two years ago, is a good enough proof that even with tight planning, great ideas, enthusiasm, sale prospects, and available material, completing a book may get into trouble for mere organisational issues…

Citation abuses

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , on October 21, 2009 by xi'an

“There is a belief that citation statistics are
inherently more accurate because they
substitute simple numbers for complex
judgments, and hence overcome the
possible subjectivity of peer review.
But this belief is unfounded.”

A very interesting report appeared in the latest issue of Statistical Science about bibliometrics and its abuses (or “bibliometrics as an abuse per se”!). It was commissioned by the IMS, the IMU and the ICIAM. Along with the set of comments (by Bernard Silverman, David Spiegelhalter, Peter Hall and others) also posted in arXiv, it is a must-read!

“even a casual inspection of the h-index and its variants shows
that these are naïve attempts to understand complicated citation
records. While they capture a small amount of information about
the distribution of a scientist’s citations, they lose crucial
information that is essential for the assessment of research.”

The issue is not gratuitous. While having Series B ranked with a high impact factor is an indicator of the relevance of a majority of papers published in the journal, there are deeper and more important issues at stake. Our grant allocations, our promotions, our salary are more and more dependent on these  “objective” summary or “comprehensive” factors. The misuse of bibliometrics stems from government bodies and other funding agencies wishing to come up with assessments of the quality of a researcher that bypass peer reviews and, more to the point, are easy to come by.

The report points out the many shortcomings of journal impact factors. Its two-year horizon is very short-sighted in mathematics and statistics. As an average, it is strongly influenced by outliers, like controversial papers or broad surveys, as shown by the yearly variations of the thing. Commercial productions like Thomson’s misses a large part of the journals that could quote a given paper and this is particularly true for fields at the interface between disciplines and for emergent topics. The variation in magnitude between disciplines is enormous and based on the impact factor I’d rather publish one paper in Bioinformatics than four in the Annals of Statistics… The second issue is that the “quality” of the journal does not automatically extend to all papers it publishes: multiplying papers by the journal impact factor is thus ignoring variation to an immense extent. The report illustrates this with the fact that a paper published in a journal with half the impact factor of another journal has a 62% probability to be more quoted than if it had been published in this other journal! The h-factor is similarly criticised by the report.  More fundamentally, the report also analyses the multicriteria nature of citations, which cannot be reflected (only) as a measure of worth of the quoted papers.

On the reform…

Posted in University life with tags , , , on March 8, 2009 by xi'an

After more than a month of demonstrations, strike actions and various street-happenings in French universities, summarised ad nauseam on this site, the Ministry for Education has produced a much reduced version of its reform project for the evaluation and promotion of faculty members. The result is not terribly impressive as most earlier dispositions towards a more autonomous structure have been canceled: promotions will keep being decided by a national committee for each field, evaluations will not be done at the local level but again nationwise, and teaching loads are still set on a national basis. The move towards autonomy for French universities has thus not gone very far! I was feeling rather awkward trying to explain the reason for the strikes to my colleagues in the UK when I visited them last week, as all the points attacked by the French protesters have been implemented (presumably better) quite a while ago in Britain… They are actually partly implemented in some French universities but under-cover, and in breach of regulations. To reject the reform unfortunately means that this will be going on for the happy fews who can benefit from it, rather than for the whole community of active researchers.