Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Fake Review Contest Entries #9-12

Here are a few more "fake reviews" for the Fake Review Writing Contest:

9. ER

Dear Editor,

In the future please waste your own time.

10. YN (modified only slightly from a real review)

I'm suspicious of claims to categorize behavior in the vague terms of these authors, or as has been done in the past, using the very popular statistical framework X, which claims that the only way to rationality is to have a prior distribution on possible hypotheses for every problem. The experiments seem to be toys.

11. SW

I couldn’t help but noticed that my work is not cited in this paper on (a topic that has nothing to do with my work). If my work is not going to be cited, why would I spend time reviewing this work? If the authors add citations to my papers, if only the recent ones but perhaps also one of my classic papers and ideally my 2010 paper because I just need a few more cites on that one to raise my h-index by a point, I will be happy to read past the introduction and reference list.

12. NR

If the authors had high-quality data, interesting ideas, and an understandable discussion and conclusions, I would write a positive review. In the absence of those items, I regret that I must hate this paper.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Fake Review Contest Entries #5-8

Here are a few more 'fake' reviews (even though some are apparently word-for-word or only slightly modified from real reviews):

5. CF

Paper title: Graph analysis of System ABC shows differences in A-B connections during Condition X vs. Y

This paper uses a novel method to study ABC system dynamics. However, I don't know anything about graph analysis so I'm going to interpret the paper through the lens of a different analysis method I do know something about. Thus the only constructive feedback I can give is that this paper is a poorly written explanation of a structural equation model of XYZ - the conclusions drawn make little sense given the data, i.e. they frequently refer to "graphs" but all I see are these pictures of circles and arrows.

6. SS (modified slightly from a real review)

Since the author is a woman, I had lowered my expectations accordingly, but the author did not even meet those. Even though I have never done experiments in my life and have never used any of these techniques, the experimental results presented were completely misinterpreted in my distinguished opinion. The largest error was the omission of any background information; the authors did not cite enough of my papers or work in the background, specifically my articles in “Science” and “Nature”.

7. MC (verbatim real review)

Why is this result not loudly proclaimed as a triumph of predictive modeling? I can think of several reasons, such as (a) the authors are saving this for another paper, or (b) some one else has this result in press already and the authors don't want to deal with the politics, or (c) the one that worries me, the only explanations known are ones that cast serious doubt on the other analysis in the paper, so something is wrong somewhere.

8. EWH

There was no point in my reading the entire paper because in the introduction on page 2 the authors assert with no supporting evidence that the world is round. That the world is round is simply stated. What is the evidence for this? Without a detailed and convincing explanation, with compelling evidence, the rest of the paper is worthless.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Fake Review Contest Entries #1-4

The first entries in the reviewing writing-fest are fascinating because they are all apparently based on real reviews. In some cases, I think only a few identifying details have been changed. Perhaps there is no need to have a creative writing exercise to craft a fake review introduction; the real ones are strange enough to provide plenty of fodder.

There will likely be a vote on the entries at some point, so I am numbering the entries and adding an author pseudonym for each (in most cases at the request of the author):

1. kamikaze

Taking into account that this paper forms the basis of Ms HopefulAuthor's PhD thesis, I would have loved to love this paper. But I don't. I hate it so much I don't even want to read it properly. Therefore, I will reject it without any other argument than the fact that if this paper had been better, I would have read it and loved it. Ms HopefulAuthor had better hope I'm not on her committee.

2. mixedmetaphor

This paper is like a car-bomb headed for a building or a wall or something; it is difficult to be sure what or where it is going. Will it explode or will it be a dud? Neither has a good outcome, nor does this paper. It is filled with dangerous ideas crammed into a package with a mundane exterior.

3. JT

I have completed my review of the manuscript by XYZ et al.  This manuscript must be rejected on grounds of plagiarism - significant sections of the text were copied verbatim from a previously-published manuscript [ABC et al.].  I attached a PDF of ABC et al.'s paper and the XYZ et al. manuscript marked to indicate the plagiarized text (you will note that all but the first two paragraphs were copied).  I am very disappointed that the authors chose to represent another group's work as their own.

4. GR

Proposal Title:  Linear and Nonlinear Methods to solve XXX

Reviewer 3 (it's always reviewer 3):

"Why is the approach limited to linear methods, and the PI does not propose nonlinear methods?"

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Write This 2013

It has taken me a while to have 6.2 minutes of spare time to put together a post about an end-of-year FSP academic writing contest, but here it is, finally. You probably don't have much time either, so this year's contest has a brevity requirement.

To summarize the last five (5) contests:

I was just thinking about how I finally have some time to work on my own writing, but then I realized I have letters of reference and nomination to write and I have promised to comment on the proposals and manuscripts of some colleagues and I have some manuscript reviews to do. The latter is the inspiration for this year's writing contest: REVIEWS. Specifically, I refer to reviews of manuscripts and proposals.

Reviews can be quite lengthy. In fact, some are longer than the original manuscript (I have only done that a few times). No matter how long and detailed the review, however, some reviewers signal their overall opinion in a few introductory sentences that address the general issues raised in the rest of the review. Is this review going to be mostly positive, negative, or "mixed"?

It is those first few sentences that form the challenge of this year's writing contest.

In 2-4(ish) sentences, write the introduction of a review. Your review can be of any flavor that you wish -- you can write a few sentences of pure scathing venom, you can write a beautiful prose-poem of praise, or you can be passive-aggressive and compliment (faintly) whilst undermining the entire premise of the paper.

I prefer that these reviews be entirely fake, but you can of course use real reviews (that you have written or received) as inspiration, ideally suitably disguised so that no real individual is targeted for insult or humiliation. The point of this exercise is to have fun and entertain with creative writing of the academic sort.

Send your entries to femalescienceprofessor@gmail.com and I will post results intermittently whilst the FSP Family is traveling around an interesting part of the world for the next 2 weeks or so.

Friday, December 13, 2013

My Year of Meets

[Note: the title is a subtle reference to the book "My Year of Meats" by Ruth Ozeki, but not for any particular reason, though I did like the book.]

Somehow I ended up going to a lot of meetings again this year. What is "a lot"? This year, for me, "a lot" = 6. There might be some years in which 6 is a good number and other years in which 6 is excessive, so the concept of "a lot" is flexible.

I do not regret going to any of the 6 -- each one was interesting in its own way, and very useful for discussions with colleagues and prospective colleagues/postdocs/students. Some of the 6 meetings were large, some were small, one was less than 500 miles from my home, the others were more than 500 miles from my home.

As I was musing about my Year of Meet(ing)s, I decided to try to think of the Most Strange meeting-related experience that I had in 2013. It will not surprise any regular reader of this blog when I say that my Most Strange meeting-related experiences (MRE) involved gender-directed weirdness.

There were several contenders for Most Strange MRE.

There was the incident when a colleague I have seldom met in person (although we have corresponded extensively by e-mail for years and written several papers together) came up to me and gave me a startlingly emphatic and prolonged hug in the presence of his wife (who walked away). ick.

There was the potential postdoc who had corresponded with me and who had supposedly done extensive investigating of a large project I am directing and that he wanted to join but who somehow thought that one of my male colleagues must be the lead investigator despite massive documentary evidence to the contrary.

And there were numerous small incidents in which men went out of their way to explain to me that they supported women scientists -- some of them had even worked with women and the experience had been surprisingly good. etc.

But the "winner" was when a scientist with whom I have only a passing acquaintance came up to me after a session that I co-organized and congratulated me on putting together such a "diverse" session. I don't mean to be thick, but my first thought was that he was referring to the subjects covered in the talks.

He said, "You must have worked really hard to have such a diverse session."

I said, "No, the session easily fell into place, given the general theme. We were all very pleased that there was such a diversity of approaches." [note: we = my male co-organizers and I]

He said, "I meant diversity of the speakers."

I said, "Oh, right, yes, well, we did deliberately invite two early-career speakers and two more established speakers, but it was mostly good luck that the session ended up with such broad representation from across Europe, Asia, and North America."

He said, "No, I mean that there were so many women in your session. I congratulate you on finding so many women." (FSP note: "so many" in this case: ~ 35% of total speakers, 50% of invited speakers)

I said, "That was not deliberate." I paused and thought about it for a moment, then said, "but maybe this was a good example of how a session can easily be naturally diverse."

He said, "It made me think that we are spending too much time focusing on the problem of women in science."

I said, "That does not follow."

That was depressing. It seems that at least one person assumed that those women speakers were selected because they are women, not because they are doing interesting work (even the one who is a hot-shot professor at a Top-Two institution?).

What has been your Most Strange MRE of 2013? Please share.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

If You Just

It seems like it has been a long time since I have done a poll in this blog. Perhaps that is because I am tired of doing surveys, including surveys on surveys, not to mention surveys for which I seem to be held personally responsible for making sure others do them even though I don't even want to do the survey myself? Perhaps, but today seems like a good day for a blog-poll anyway. The topic is the post from last week.

How would you describe your reaction (just based on what you know from my description of the incident in that post)? I have enabled the 'multiple response' feature so you can select more than one. I don't doubt that my list below is incomplete. If you are so inclined, please leave a comment if your response is not represented.

My response was..
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