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Antony Lewis



Joined: 23 Sep 2004
Posts: 1187
Affiliation: University of Sussex

PostPosted: June 02 2006  Reply with quote

So, 500+ users, but VERY few posters (this is not supposed to be my personal forum!) What would it take to get some more input?

You can go to almost any department and people will have quite interesting thoughts about some recent papers - I'd love to see hear some of them even when I'm not travelling!
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Boud Roukema



Joined: 24 Feb 2005
Posts: 82
Affiliation: Torun Centre for Astronomy, University of Nicolaus Copernicus

PostPosted: June 07 2006  Reply with quote

Antony Lewis wrote:
So, 500+ users, but VERY few posters (this is not supposed to be my personal forum!) What would it take to get some more input?


Money, sex, drugs (e.g. real coffee?), or getting people to install speakers and webcams in their offices and "assaulting" people audiovisually with a psychological "Hey, you, what cool paper did you read today?" effect?

But seriously, people are busy and under pressure and in a coordinatorist or capitalist economic system tend to be forced to spend time on things which give them brownie points and increase their "intellectual capital". The question is how to avoid the tragedy of the commons. We get brownie points (jobs, funding) by being the first to publish an idea. If during a discussion we come up with a new idea and then someone else submits first to a journal, at the moment, the chances are weak that the journal will give precedence to description of the idea on cosmocoffee. There's at least one precedent (to avoid reigniting a closed issue, I won't mention the specifics) in which one of the main astronomy journals flatly rejected an article on the basis of prior publication by another group and refused to accept online, verifiable evidence showing that precedence went in the other direction.

So I don't think we can (yet) expect journals to credit people for what they write in forums, even in terms of precedence.

On the other hand, there's no formal brownie points for going to conferences (well, there is a bit), but people nevertheless are eager (well, sort of) to go to conferences. Is it just for the food and the fun of seeing people's faces and discussing non-electronically? Or is it more for the informal, useful cosmocoffee type discussions? Or both?

Presumably it's something that will evolve with time. With ADS blogs and some non-ADS blogs, the whole cosmo communication system is a dynamical system which will evolve however it wishes to evolve...

One specific suggestion:

How about adding a FAQ about whether or not it's considered the Right Thing to post discussion about your own articles in the astro-ph section? Or whether or not it's an unanswered question which will develop by community feeling?

I've got a feeling that a few people have done this, but not many, and many people would feel that it could be a bit pretentious to post about your own articles. On the other hand, probably nearly all of us are more or less coauthors of coauthors of each other, so it's hard to be completely neutral.

The point is that if discussion of your article on cosmocoffee leads to the same citation effect as posting on astro-ph (was this Fraser Pierce's article on astro-ph? i don't think so... - there was an analysis finding more or less cosmologists post nearly everything on astro-ph, stellar people nearly nothing, and articles posted on astro-ph get cited twice as often as others), then eventually people might start doing this systematically.

Anyway, i've finished my "coffee" now. Back to work... :)
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Anonymous






PostPosted: June 08 2006  Reply with quote

I'd like to post more, but as Boud implies, my to-do list is usually a higher priority. One thing on my to-do list is refereeing though.

If only I could (anonymously) post my referee reports to cosmocoffee then I might enjoy writing them more, and might get some feedback, and it would facilitate the kind of discussion which already goes on on cosmocoffee. Maybe if lots of us did it, then it would raise the standard of refereeing?!

What happens if we post referee reports publically? Is there something in the small print of the journals preventing it? Do people think it is morally wrong? (What would you think about seeing a report on your paper on cosmocoffee?!).
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Boud Roukema



Joined: 24 Feb 2005
Posts: 82
Affiliation: Torun Centre for Astronomy, University of Nicolaus Copernicus

PostPosted: June 08 2006  Reply with quote

Anonymous wrote:

If only I could (anonymously) post my referee reports to cosmocoffee then I might enjoy writing them more, and might get some feedback, and it would facilitate the kind of discussion which already goes on on cosmocoffee. Maybe if lots of us did it, then it would raise the standard of refereeing?!

What happens if we post referee reports publically? Is there something in the small print of the journals preventing it? Do people think it is morally wrong? (What would you think about seeing a report on your paper on cosmocoffee?!).


arguments against

  • My guess (but IANAL) is that the small print is that hypothetically speaking, only you the referee (and the authors) have access to the submitted paper, so if you make your report public, then you'll inevitably risk revealing the content of the paper and violating the confidentiality.
  • Another problem could be blurring the difference between a comment on a forum and a referee's report: in the case of a referee's report, you know that your comments can result in totally blocking a paper, while in a forum, if you make a criticism which turns out to be itself wrong or confused, the authors of the paper don't suffer that much directly, since several other people are likely to come along and correct you.


arguments for

  • On the other hand, if we consider the normal astro journals (A&A, ApJ, MNRAS) and a typical cosmo paper, i.e. one which has been simultaneously posted on astro-ph, you could publish not-quite-identical reports on both cosmocoffee and to the journal, with appropriate differences - e.g. on cosmocoffee you don't make statements about minor changes/major changes reqd/article rejected, you just say the paper's interesting because X, Y, Z or you say you're concerned about the paper because A, B and C; also, on cosmocoffee, you can say, i don't understand section 2.3 but it seems wrong, while to the journal, you have to be really sure that 2.3 is wrong before saying that it's wrong.
  • If you're submitting an article, you should be willing to hear constructive criticism and respond to it, so there's no particular reason why it should be secret, especially if you've also put the article on astro-ph.


I have mixed feelings about the idea of doing this anonymously. The advantage of anonymity is focussing on the science and not individuals (sometimes famous cosmologists will make crappy comments and unknown cosmologists sensible comments) - the arguments are right or wrong independent of who says them, but the danger is that the referee can hide behind anonymity to make less responsible comments.

Maybe some sort of a double blind system could help - but with the usual dilemma: "Who guards the guardians?" But this would require some software work to set up...

ok, enough "coffee" for today...
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