Archive for the ‘communication’ Category

Dead in the Water

Friday, 3 January 2020

Although my paper on probability was accepted by The Review of Symbolic Logic on 22 September, it has since been stalled at that journal.

Acceptance was conditioned on my making a reply to the reviewer and my providing a final version of the paper. On 23 September, I uploaded the reply, a copy of my paper in PDF, a LAΤΕΧ source file for the text of the paper, and a BibLAΤΕΧ database. At the private page for my submission of articles to ASL journals, the status of the paper was reported as Waiting.

Some days later, I discovered two errors in one of the entries of the BibLAΤΕΧ database, which errors affected the bibliography. I initially thought that I should wait for galley proofs before attempting to effect a correction; but, on 17 October, I submitted a revision of the database, along with redundant copies of the other files because it was not possible simply to submit a new copy of the database.

From 22 September until then — indeed until 30 November, I'd received no communication from the editors nor from other staff. So I contacted the handling editor and requested information. She had not replied as of 2 December, so I contacted the coördinating editor and requested information. He replied on 4 December with a recommendation that I contact the handling editor, and said that he'd sent a copy of his reply to her. She had not replied as of 9 December, so I sent a copy both to the coördinating editor and to the handling editor, presenting a time-line, noting the lack of communication, and again requesting information.

On 18 December, the handling editor told me that she would contact the typesetters and then communicate with me soon. On 20 December, at 21:06 UTC she sent e.mail reporting that the typesetters needed for me to upload a final version of the paper. I responded that I had done so on 23 September, and that I'd also submitted a revised BibLAΤΕΧ database on 17 October. However, I returned to the website to repeat the process, and found that there was a previously presented option entitled Upload Final Versions; I used this option. and the status became Finals Uploaded. The option continues to be offered. Evidently, when I was told to upload a final version, an editor or some other member of staff failed to do something that would have caused that option to be presented to me on 23 September or on 17 October. And, since none of them were paying attention, no one noticed that months were passing without movement on the paper.

I mention the time-of-day that the handling editor replied to me because it was late at night in England, on a Friday, with Christmas coming in the middle of the next week. There was no discernible action taken on my paper in that next week, nor has there been in the week after it; I imagine that the typesetters have all been on vacation.

On 3 January at 21:44 UTC — yes, again at night on a Friday — the handling editor replied to my message of 20 December, saying that she would again contact the publishing team. I quickly notified her that, on 20 December, I had again uploaded a final version, but had not heard since from them.

Up-Date (2020:01/05): I received e.mail from the handling editor telling me that the publishing team could now access the files. I don't know if, for them to be able to do so, still more had to be done by the editorial staff. In any case, my paper still isn't publicly listed as accepted.

Ideas of Choice

Monday, 11 November 2019

I have been more actively working on the decision-theory paper off of which the probability paper was spun. And this effort has me thinking about the meanings of choice.

As I noted in an earlier entry to this 'blog, my paper on indecision used choice to mean no more or less than selection. I defined relations of preference in terms of choice functions, which are functions that select a subset from a set of options. Defining relations of preference in this manner seems to explain preference in terms of something called choice rather than explaining the thing called choice in terms of preference. But something called choice is often said to result from preference. Certainly, we want somehow to explain selection by persons of alternatives (even if that which explains cannot itself be observed directly!), and some notion of preference represents an attempt at explanation.

(However, if preference is the proper explanation, then preference must be very changeable; much of real-world behavior does not conform to a constant set of preferences. And people do such things as regularly selecting {A} from a set {A, B, C} yet consistently selecting {B} from a set {A, B, D}; perhaps in such cases we can still contrive an explanation in terms of preference, but we should be dubious of such explanation. I don't think that we should reject the word choice if the selections that people actually make aren't driven by preference. If preference does not provide a proper explanation, then perhaps some more general concept does. And perhaps by teasing-out what people intend by the word choice when they intend something narrower than selection, we can arrive at that generalization. That's one of the reasons that I sometimes press some people, especially fellow economists, to tell me what they intend by the word choice or by coördinate terms, when they reject its application where it seems to me to fit. I'm not trying to catch them in error or Socratically to teach a lesson to them; I'm trying to engage with them in an important investigation. But, important doubts about the use of preference in descriptive theory not withstanding, preference makes considerable sense in prescriptive use. Indeed, that sense in prescriptive use is one of the reasons that we so easily accept it in descriptive use, and even assures us that it must at least approximate a realistic description fairly well, because unreasonable behavior is costly.)

Identification of a preference is sometimes itself called choice; but sometimes preference is instead expressed in terms of whom or of what one would choose, if given the choice; and, sometimes, after a preference is expressed, the response is something such as You don't get to make that choice! In conscious identification of a preference, one selects an ideation; in reporting such an identification, one selects an utterance; and these ideations or utterances are selected in a different way than are their subjects, except in odd, self-referential cases.

In discussion of decision-making in a world of uncertainty, I've found use for an idea that I call practical choice, by which I mean selection of an option which selection causes that option to be effected with certainty.

In a world without uncertainty, there would be a simple division between what one could attain and what one could not. Preference amongst the unattainable would ex definitione be without practical significance. Discussion of preference amongst the possible would be operationally equivalent to discussion of practical choice, and rational agents would always attain that possible state-of-the-world that they most desired.

When we begin to speak and write of uncertainty, we are actually speaking and writing of cases in which we may make practical choices amongst options that would, in turn, affect the state-of-the-world in imperfectly predictable ways. Hypothetically, I might not care about those effects; I might only care about the options that I can practically choose; but, with those options properly identified, that hypothetical is highly implausible and sterile. And, otherwise, it now becomes quite relevant to consider the difference and relationship between preferences amongst things that are subject to practical choice and preferences amongst things that are not subject to practical choice. Preferences amongst things that an agent cannot practically choose will determine preferences amongst things that she can.

(Our practical choices are more limited than some might at first realize. An agent has practical choice of no more than some mental states; and selecting amongst these mental states delivers no more power over other possibilities than to increase or decrease the probabilities of those possibilities. Given the selection of one mental state, one's arm is more likely to move, but there is at least some terrible possibility that it will not. Indeed, given the selection of one mental state, one is more likely to recall a desired datum, but there is a possibility that one will not. Still, in many cases we might, without doing too much violence to realism, pretend that our practical choices include operations that we think almost surely to follow upon our exercise of actual practical choice. For example, one might calculate as if one had a practical choice of whether to propose marriage, while acknowledging that one did not have a practical choice over whether one would marry the other party.)

The concern of my paper on indecision was in identifying a difference in observable behavior distinguishing indecision from indifference, and I didn't want that distinction to be simply self-reported. When an agent was undecided between X and Y rather than indifferent, I needed a difference in selection from a set in which X and Y options, rather than a difference in selection amongst utterances or somesuch. In hindsight, I wish that, in that paper, I'd discussed conceptions of choice more than I did, and had explicitly written of practical choice. Perhaps accordingly I will someday revise the working version of the paper.


Monday, 23 September 2019

On 22 September, I was informed that my article Formal Qualitative Probability had been accepted for publication by The Review of Symbolic Logic. I do not yet know in what issue it is to be published.

Up-Date (2019:11/03): I have not yet received a galley-proof of my paper nor a copyright-assignment form. I have learned that the journal publishes papers on-line before scheduling them to a specific issue of the journal, so I will probably be in the odd position of having a DOI and a URI before I know the issue in which the paper is to appear.


Friday, 13 September 2019

On 10 September at a little after 17:00 PDT, I sent a message to the handling editor for my paper at the journal to which I'd submitted it on 20 February:

What is the present status of my article, and for what reason does it have that status, whatever it might be?

I've not yet received any reply.

I had waited until the 10th because, discounting the twenty days between when I received the first pair of reviews and when I sent a revision along with replies to the two reviews, that marked the sixth mensiversay.

When a paper has been held so long without a decision, the editor should not have waited to be contacted by the author(s), but should initiate contact. And, given such delay and that the author has asked for information that the editor ought to have at-hand, a query should receive a prompt reply.

Up-Date (2019:09/20): At the end of 20 September in Europe, I sent the following message both to the handling editor and to the coördinating editor:

I believe that my query of 10 days ago continues to warrant an answer, though it has not received one. I recognize that much of the unhappy history of this article at [your journal] has been outside of editorial control, but communication is surely within your power. What is the present status of my article, and for what reason does it have that status, whatever it might be?

As it seems that I should prepare to submit my article to some next journal, I have a couple of lists of journals through which to look.

Continued Waiting

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Four weeks after I submitted a revision of my paper on probability, along with additional responses to each of the referee reports, I am still waiting on word from the journal. The website reporting on the submission is not particularly instructive. Under the heading Status the report says 02/20/19 Waiting; under the heading Last Action the report reads Referee Assignment Request. My guess is that a request to a specific referee candidate has been made by the handling editor. I don't think that the report will be or has been updated to reflect declined requests; it might be updated when outstanding requests have been accepted.

Evidently, a swift rejection did not result from my explaining that the first pair of referee reports involved some major errors on the parts of those referees. But I am not made to feel particularly hopeful; it is pathological that the paper has not already been properly reviewed.

Revision and Resubmission

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

I acted where I reasonably could to accommodate the most recent reviewers of my probability paper, but each of the reviewers made some rather dire errors. So, along with a revised version of the paper, I wrote responses to the reviews, and on 16 July sent these to the journal that had requested revisions.

The hope for publication rests upon three possibilities. Possibly the reviewers will acknowledge their errors; possibly the editors over-rule the reviewers, either on principle or to protect the reputations of the editors and of the journal.

I think that the chance of acceptance is poor. If the paper is rejected, then I will undo some of the revisions, and seek another journal to which to submit the paper.

Another Monday

Monday, 15 April 2019

Another Monday has effectively passed without my receiving a rejection from the latest journal to which I offered my paper on probability.

My paper was submitted to that journal on 20 February, and on 2 March I was informed that it were assigned to a handling editor and that I'd be notified when a report were returned by a reviewer. I don't know whether a reviewer has accepted the assignment; but, while sometimes it takes months to find a reviewer, usually that happens more quickly. The journal says that it makes an effort to make a decision within three months; but, at most journals, reviewers are asked to return a report in something like four weeks or a month. So, while the three-month mark is six weeks away, it is increasingly plausible that a decision will be made soon.

Those who review academic articles and edit academic journals do so as a side activity, and are most likely to give time to this activity on the weekends. Additionally, weekends are psychologically natural for self-imposed deadlines. Monday becomes the most probable day for an editor to inform an author of a decision. Because the journal and the handling editor are in Europe, Monday effectively ends in what is for me the late after-noon.

And the most likely decision is a rejection. I don't think that I quite said this when previously writing about submitting my article to a journal. Instead, I wrote about the fate of most articles being rejection. But, after observing the responses of reviewers at those previous journals, I've reached a judgment about probability. It's probable that my article will again be rejected.

Thus, on each Monday, I look for a rejection.

Blinded by the Light

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Sometimes, people who have trouble understanding an expression that is complete, unambiguous, and concise will claim that the expression is unclear. This response is very much like claiming that a day upon which they want sunglasses is foggy.

Submitted Anew

Thursday, 21 February 2019

On 20 February, I submitted my paper on probability to yet another academic journal. To my surprise, the journal in question gave me a choice as to whether my review would be doubly blind — with my identity withheld from the reviewers; I chose that option.

Although in my initial reading of the longer of the two reviews that I most recently received I found no worthwhile criticism, I thought that I should pore over that review carefully, to ensure that I didn't overlook anything in it that would cause me to improve my paper. However, though the review was not written with abusive intent, it is none-the-less abusive, and I was averse to reading it. To impel myself to read it carefully, I decided to write a response to each of the criticisms within it, as I would then have to take care to find and to consider each criticism. I completed a draft of the response without finding any good reason to revise my paper. Having gone that far with the draft, I proofread it on 21 February, and posted a version on-line. It is written more in the manner of a 'blog entry than of something intended to go into a journal or book; and I don't know that any of you would want to bother with reading it in any case. But it's available.

Between the time that I previously submitted the paper and the time that received the most recent decision, I more efficiently organized the citations in one paragraph and I compressed one appendix by removing formula numbers and by suppressing logical quantifiers so that its eleven formulæ could be placed into a one-page grid.

Up-Date (2018:03/02):

In the early morning of 2 March, I received e.mail indicating that my probability paper had been assigned to a handling editor (who was named), and that I would be contacted after a reviewer had returned a report. It seems that the threat of a desk rejection has passed. I made a very cursory check on the handling editor; she seems quite qualified.

Sowing Pseudo-Scientific Seeds of Racism

Thursday, 2 August 2018

I have previously expressed great concern about journalists confusing the categorization of a people as H. sapiens with their being human. Bodies Keep Shrinking on this Island, and Scientists Aren't Sure Why, a story in the New York Times, offers yet another illustration of this confusion. Within it, Carl Zimmer writes:

The researchers found that a very small percentage of the villagers' DNA came from Neanderthals or Denisovans. A tiny portion could not be matched to humans, Neanderthals or Denisovans.

But these enigmatic pieces weren’t dramatically different from human DNA, as you’d expect if they had come from Homo floresiensis. Dr. Tucci concluded that the Rampasasa villagers have no Homo floresiensis ancestry.

Note that, once again, Neanderthals and Denisovans are distinguished by a journalist from humans, as are now those of H. floresiensis. No reason is given for classifying any of these people as not human; the journalist has simply inferred that they are not because they have been classified as of a different species; what that classification actually means is utterly unconsidered.

Further, in the article, modern populations are noted to have differing occurrences of presence of DNA from the supposedly inhuman populations — not dramatically inhuman, but supposedly inhuman none-the-less.

Let me make it very plain: Mr Zimmer and the New York Times are offering pseudo-science with racist implications. He probably doesn't intend those implications, but is simply thoughtless. However, his thoughtlessness and that of his editors are inexcusable. And, if he had any conversations with the scientists who conducted these studies, then I'd like to know why the Hell they failed to impress upon him that the taxonomy did not separate people into humans and non-humans. These scientists did not have the prerogative of unscientifically presuming that Mr Zimmer had more intelligence than has been actually demonstrated by the typical journalist.