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Light blogging: The cynic’s guide to getting published June 6, 2007

Posted by Johan in Academia, Off Topic.

I haven’t published anything yet (though before the end of ’07, fingers crossed…), so I have no idea how accurate this guide to publishing is. While it’s nice to get an insight into the obscure world of peer review, some of the advice strikes me as a touch.. well, shady. Examples:

Include references to authors who are known to like your papers

* Perhaps they might become referees.
* Include references to people with whom you have had favorable correspondence.
* This is not to bias opinions, but to get a fair hearing.
* Referees have to make a conscious effort and must be alert in order to be fair to unknown authors.
* Include liberal references to famous economists, dead or alive, who are unlikely to be your referees.

34. Delete or hide the references to undesirable potential referees

* Even with double blind reviews, one can often guess the identity of the referee from the report because of references and writing style, etc.
* Editors often select referees from your references.
* If some referees consistently recommend rejection of your papers, drop their papers from your references (in the initial submission).
* You can add them later (after the paper is accepted).
* This may require rewriting the introduction with a somewhat different perspective, but it is probably worth the effort.
* Depending on the journal, you may ask the editor to eliminate some persons from the pool of referees. But you should ask informally (e.g., via e-mail) in advance if it is okay.

Cite your own articles

* An article is considered “important” if it is cited 30 times or more by others.
* Cite your own related papers, provided that they were published or are forthcoming in a prestigious journal. Others may look up your other papers and cite them.
* But do not cite too many.
* If you have a good reputation, this practice can be useful because the referee may figure out that it is your paper.
* Do not cite your own unpublished papers or publications in an obscure journal. The editors and referees may conclude that the current paper also should be published in such journals.
* Do not cite your dissertation. The referees will know you are inexperienced.
* Do not cite someone else’s dissertation. The referees may erroneously conclude that you are him or her or a close associate, all of whom are inexperienced.

And later:

14. Check for related articles in the journal being considered

* Try to find some related articles in the journal to which you wish to submit your paper.
* Authors who published a paper on a related subject are likely to be referees. The editor’s memory is still fresh.
* Obviously, you need to say something about, or at least cite, their papers.
* Even if they are marginally related, try to incorporate their references. Make some effort to explain how your work is related.

Taken together, I think this guide paints a rather dark image of the world of Academia. Peers who disagree with you will try to stop your papers from getting published if they can, so ignore their research at all cost. Peer review is double blind in name only, so make sure to cite people who like you in order to get a favourable review. Editors can be manipulated if you stroke their egos by citing papers in their journal.

Maybe this is really good advice, but I can’t help but wonder what it does to the supposedly open academic debate when people cite their friends and pretend that their enemies’ research does not exist. If people follow this advice, the output is papers that have strayed rather far from the scientific ideals of objectivity and relevance.

I don’t have nearly enough experience of publishing to know if this is an accurate description. What do you think?


Shameless Self-Promotion May 27, 2007

Posted by Johan in Academia, Off Topic.
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I guess my readers can pat themselves on the back for having such good taste, as PsyBlog recently opined the following about the Fan Club in a blog review roundup:

Best newcomer
The Phineas Gage Fan Club, named after one of the most famous cases in neuropsychology, is a new blog (to me) written by an undergraduate at the University of York. This clearly written blog focusses on neuroscience and psychology. It’s still grappling with the question of whether to pitch articles at experts or novices. Hopefully it won’t go too far towards the expert. We need inclusive science explanation everyone can understand.

It’s always nice to get some recognition. I’m having fun with this blog, although managing an update every other day is tricky when my assessed work is approaching the deadline.

I’m really impressed with the response to my attempts to make sense of things. Given that nearly every other neuroscience/psychology blogger out there is postgrad or beyond, it’s quite encouraging to see that my humble undergrad efforts are occasionally liked well enough to get linked. This little science corner of the blogosphere is extremely welcoming and friendly to new bloggers, as I’ve certainly experienced.

Ego-boosting aside, blogging also forces me to read all those interesting articles I stumble across. It’s all too easy to glance through the abstract and file it away under Pleasure Reading, when reading does not serve any specific purpose.

Anyway, have a look at the blog roundup – the Fan Club bit aside, it’s well worth a read.

Light blogging: resistance is futile May 21, 2007

Posted by Johan in Academia, Developmental Psychology.
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I’m juggling something like 8 projects right now, 6 of which influence my degree – 2 of those to a frighteningly large extent. So I’m switch to light blogging for a bit: no extensive write-ups, no pretty pictures. Just links and a brief description. Normal service will resume around the end of June…

There is a review in the latest issue of Science on resistance to science. Bloom and Skolnick-Weisberg use findings from developmental psychology to show how non-scientific or even anti-scientific beliefs may develop. Essentially, their idea is that children are by default unscientific in their common-sense reasoning, and will remain such unless they are educated. This in itself is nothing new – many researchers in this area believe that, for instance, naive participants will not spontaneously realize the need for control groups in testing the validity of a claim (eg, to see if psychotherapy works you cannot merely give a group of clinically depressed people therapy and see if they improve). So scientific thinking is rational, yet not intuitive to us. So much for our supposed rationality.

The review reminded me of a quote that is usually attributed to Jonathan Swift: “You cannot reason a man out of a position he did not first reason himself into.” I think this drives home the point that using rational arguments to attack beliefs is a fool’s errand.

Rationality wins the day in science (or is supposed to), because the debaters share a belief in the value of rational thinking. In a context where rational thinking is not valued, rationality is unconvincing.

Bloom, P., and Skolnick Weisberg, D. (2007). Childhood Origins of Adult Resistance to Science. Science, 316, 996-997.