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Re: [tlug] Journals, Authors and 'Free Peer Review'

On Sunday, September 30, 2018 01:19 AM, Stephen J. Turnbull wrote:
Raymond Wan writes:

  > Oh...  If you're alluding to plagiarism or some other
  > suspicious behaviour, then yes, you're correct.
No, I wasn't.  I'm talking about "honest" research that is published
in non-refereed venues (including pay-to-publish venues that claim to
have referees).

(Looking back at my previous message...) We were hypothetically talking about me being a referee and looking at some paper which has not cited an ArXiv paper. Do I point it out to the author?

I'm not sure if I would ever point out to an author about not citing non-peer-reviewed work. In some areas (i.e., life sciences), there are oral presentations that are really just abstracts with a possible poster session. They may have some good ideas, but I would never ask an author to cite such work. Indeed, I would (personally) lump ArXiv together with them.

But maybe that might change but you're asking for my opinion right now.

  > I guess what I mean is if someone searched their digital
  > libraries of choice for their discipline and didn't turn up
  > anything.  i.e., ACM and IEEE's digital libraries.  Is that
  > enough?

That depends on the purpose of the search.  If you're looking for
reason to believe your work is not duplicative of someone else's, no,
that's not good enough.  One of my sempai was a year into data
collection for his dissertation, when somebody independently published
something very similar to what he planned for his chapters 2 and 3 (in
the elsewhere-mentioned American Economic Review, no less).  One
suspects that preprints were available much earlier if he had only
known where to look (the AER had an acceptance to print lag of about 6
months, and a submission to acceptance lag of 6 to 24 months).  I'm
not sure why his advisor didn't know about it.

Alas, advisors aren't Gods. They can and sometimes do miss things. I do recall a story where a student worked on his/her PhD dissertation for 2 years and then something came out that disputed the whole hypothesis. That student ended up quitting. (This is one of those someone told someone who told me...not sure how reliable is this story.)

But, these things happens. There are no certainties in research just as there aren't any in business, either.

If you're doing a survey article on the current state of the art,
that's probably good enough.

If you're doing an original research paper where you've pretty much
completed the work, you should already have a sufficiently detailed
bibliography based on the purposes above, except it's worth doing a
lookup for new work citing the papers in your bibliography.

That is certainly true.

As I perhaps mentioned in a separate e-mail, if you've specialized, you probably know everyone in the field. (Or everyone and all of their past and current students :-) ). But someone does sometimes come out of nowhere and surprises everyone. Of course, this can be a good thing, depending on one's point of view...the good, at least, is that a research area isn't "closed"; anyone can get in if you do the background work to enter it.

  > Mentioning them isn't the hard part.  Trusting it is.  Or,
  > more precisely, trusting it enough to cite it is.
I don't see how you can have rules for that.  If my search turned up
more ArXiv articles than I had time to read, I'd see if there were any
titles that grabbed my eye and dig a little deeper (read abstracts or
so).  If it was only a couple in the last two years, I'd read them and
decide.  That's what it means to be a professional researcher to me
(although as I mentioned elsewhere stuff I work on has the half-life
of a proton :-รพ).

I don't think it's a rule but one does have to have a filter. I wish we had the time to read everything in our field, but we don't.

  > They do give weight to citations but the weight for something like
  > ArXiv will be a 0.  [Disclaimer: No, I haven't asked.]
Sure.  The effect I, and I'm pretty sure Benjamin, am thinking about
is more indirect.  People will see your ArXiv article, and more
important it may be an URL that's easier to remember or consider
"important".  Knowing your name from reading it, they may look for
your other, more reputable, publications, especially any in the
bibliography.  The argument is that an ArXiv listing is real cheap, a
few seconds to upload.  The potential upside is huge, although
probably not realized very often (I mentioned 1000000:1 before :-).
  > In fact, I probably would put it together with non-peer-reviewed
  > publications, including those manuscripts that we might put in a CV
  > or year-end report as "in preparation".

Right.  As long as ArXiv isn't below those, why not?  That's what I
(and again I think Benjamin too) are arguing.  Might even convince a
non-technical university-level committee your c.v. is longer than it
looks. :-)

Again, I don't have anything against ArXiv. I have no intention of changing your's or Benjamin's opinions about it. But this thread started (I think) because of my reply to Benjamin's suggesting that it is really great. I don't agree with that and I think it's worth saying why.

While our opinions won't change, for anyone who is still following this thread, at least they can see two sides.

So, "why not?", you ask. So, let me cheat and go into that survey. 113/159 of respondents said they've never submitted their work to pre-print servers (Figure 10). As for their reasons, they include:

1) don't see a need when they intend to publish their work anyway (25%)
2)  don't want to give away ideas too early (14%)
3) want to preserve the integrity of double-blind reviewing (26%)

I picked and chose the reasons. (And I didn't read the whole survey...I'm jumping around the PDF so sorry if the numbers are wrong.)

Personally, I think these are all legitimate reasons, even the ones that I didn't single out above. In particular, #2 is actually a good reason that I didn't think about -- being scooped. There have been cases of reviewers scooping the papers they reviewed...totally unethical but it happens. Placing it in a preprint server is going to make this "worse".

Someone beating another to publication can make what would have been a tier 1 publication to a tier 2 or tier 3. Even if they cite the ArXiv version, it doesn't matter. They would be a tier 1 publication can mine would be a lower tier. And that could mean a huge difference in terms of continued funding, salaries and support for students and staff, etc. Submitting it to a preprint server just to make a statement against a publisher isn't something I would be in favour of.

And speaking of the publisher, I don't really think they are that evil. Yes, they are expensive. But if it's an open access publication charge, then it has been included in the project's budget. And it's actually a small portion compared to the cost of running the research project itself. It's probably worth nitpicking when we're running out of money at the end... As for accessing the journals, the library does pay for it; again, it's part of their budget. And they don't pay for a journal for "me"; but for the whole university and even upper-year undergraduates may use it. For those who aren't in research, access is expensive, but there might be ways...for example, one could join that alumni association which *sometimes* includes library access.

As for peer review, I actually don't see it as being a slave to the publisher. I think it's part of research -- that you conduct research, write it up, and submit it. And sometimes, the tables are turned and you have to act as a peer reviewer. Assuming a paper has 3 reviewers (on average), then, roughly speaking, for each paper you submit, you should review 3 times [yes, divided by the number of know what I mean ;-) ]. It's quite ok...and while most papers I've seen make my eyes roll, there are times when something appears and I think "Wow! I'm glad I read that. I'm going to offer some suggestions to the authors to help make it better." Never once did I ever think that I'm doing this for the publisher. So, it was interesting to have heard that in this thread.

And I have said "No" to publishers before. I think as long as one has a reason and tell them soon, it is quite ok. Of course, if I said "No" to them 10 times and then submit 2 papers that means I am asking the editor to find 6 reviewers for me, then I guess I deserve to have the editor make a voodoo doll of me with pins all over...

Anyway, that's a long-winded answer to your "Why not?". At least for me, the "Why not" out-weighs the "Why".


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