Archive for July 11th, 2009

When reviewing demands expertise that you do not have!

July 11, 2009

Here is Dr. Free-Ride:

At his lounge, the Lab Lemming poses an excellent hypothetical question about manuscript review:

Suppose you are reviewing a paper. Also assume, that like most papers these days, that it has multiple authors, each of whom applies his expertise to the problem at hand. And finally, assume that you are an expert in some, but not all of the fields used to solve the particular problem being reported in this paper.What do you do if one of the key points in the paper that is not your area of expertise seems fishy. For example, if the paper is on your field area, what if some of the lab results seem fishy. Or if you are an analyst, what if the experimental setup seems odd.

Assuming that you are a successful researcher, you probably have long-time collaborators who are experts in these fields. So, what is the best way of accessing their expertise, given that some sort of confidence generally surrounds papers in review.

Here are her two options:

Here are the alternative options that occur to me:

1. Hit the literature. You could ask your expert friends for recommendations of papers that describe the kind of experimental set up, or data analysis strategy, or whatever, that is bugging you in the manuscript you’re reviewing. From those recommendations, you can use the references to collect more papers. Perusing a reasonable handful of papers that deal with the issue you’re pondering may give you a better sense of whether what’s presented in the manuscript is normal or weird. If it still strikes you as weird, you can flag it as such in your review (listing the articles you’re using as your “baseline” for normal).

2. Note your concerns, and the limits of your expertise. You can communicate your concerns as part of your formal review of the manuscript, or you can do it in an email to the journal editor in advance of your formal review. Either way, it’s not inappropriate to pass on to the journal editor names and email address of the experts you would turn to for advice. The editor can then investigate whether these experts would be appropriate additional reviewers.

If and when the manuscript is published, you might shoot an email to the expert friend you were tempted to consult and have a chat about the published paper. Use it as an opportunity for your friend to educate you about the details of his or her expertise as applied to the research described in the paper. If he or she sees a glaring problem in the paper, a letter to the journal editor may be in order.

Take a look!

Blogs might kill books but they do generate book contracts

July 11, 2009

John Quiggin at CT:

Blogs kill books. At least, that’s what I always thought. Between 1988 and 2000, I wrote four1 books and edited a couple of volumes. In 2002, I started blogging, and I haven’t done a book since then.

But, in the mysterious way of things, it turns out that blogs generate books, or at least book contracts. In comments here not long ago, Miracle Max wrote

The discredited ideas theme really needs a book, and JQ appears to be the ideal person to write it.
I will even contribute the title: “Dead Ideas from New Economists.” No charge.

Brad DeLong picked it up, and a couple of days later I got an email from Seth Ditchik at Princeton University Press suggesting that it really would be a good idea. Now, we have a contract, and we’re going to use Max’s suggested title.

Take a look!

Brain damage and selective aphasia

July 11, 2009

Mo at Neurophilosophy points to an interesting paper (which reads like a case study from Oliver Sack’s book):

After the rehabilitation period, a series of linguistic tests was administered to determine the extent of his speech deficits. M.H. exhibited deficits in both languages, but the most severe deficits were seen only in Hebrew. In this language he had a severe difficulty in recalling words and names, so that his speech was non-fluent and interrupted by frequent pauses. He had difficulty understanding others’ spoken Hebrew, and also had great difficulty reading and writing Hebrew. In Arabic, his native language, all of these abilities were affected only mildy. Differences were also seen in the effects of intensive language therapy. Although the therapy led to improvements in both languages, the improvements in Arabic were seen in all linguistic abilities; in Hebrew, by contrast, there was only mild improvement in his spontaneous speech and comprehension, and his ability to name objects remained unchanged.Similarly, his ability to read and write Arabic, but not Hebrew, improved significantly.

Take a look!