Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Just Pining

Sunday, 5 August 2012

On Sunday, 27 May, I received a pair of e.mail messages announcing formal acceptance for publication of my paper on indecision, and I ceased being braced for rejection. From 15 June, Elsevier had a version for sale on-line (first the uncorrected proof, then the corrected proof, now the version found in the journal). The issue itself (J Math Econ v48 #4) was made available on-line on 3 August. (I assume that the print copies will be received by subscribers soon.)


Reader may recall that, not very long ago, I was reading A Budget of Paradoxes by Augustus de Morgan, and that when de Morgan used the term paradox he did not use in in the sense of an apparent truth which seems to fly in the face of reason, but in the older sense of a tenet opposed to received opinion. De Morgan was especially concerned with cases of heterodoxy to which no credibility would be ascribed by the established mainstream.

Some paradoxes would later move from heterodoxy to orthodoxy, as when the Earth came to be viewed as closely approximated by a sphere, and with no particular claim to being the center of the universe. But most paradoxes are unreasonable, and have little chance of ever becoming orthodoxy.

I began reading de Morgan's Budget largely because I have at least a passing interest in cranky ideas. But reading it at the time that I did was not conducive to my mental health.


Under ideal circumstances, one would not use a weight of opinion — whether the opinion were popular or that of experts — to approximate most sorts of truth. But circumstances are seldom ideal, and social norms are often less than optimal whatever the circumstances. When confronted with work that is heterodox about foundational matters, the vast majority of people judge work to be crackpot if it is not treated with respect by some ostensibly relevant population.

In cases where respect is used as the measure of authority, there can be a problem of whose respect is itself taken to have some authority; often a layering obtains. The topology of that layering can be conceptualized in at least three ways, but the point is that the layers run from those considered to have little authority beyond that to declare who has more authority, to those who are considered to actually do the most respected research, with respected popularizers usually in one of the layers in-between. In such structures, absurdities can obtain, such as presumptions that popularizers have themselves done important research, or that the more famous authorities are the better authorities.


As I was reading de Morgan's book, my paper was waiting for a response from the seventh journal to which it had been offered. The first rejection had been preëmptory; no reason was given for it, though there was some assurance that this need not be taken as indicating that the paper were incompetent or unimportant. The next three rejections (2nd, 3rd, 4th) were less worrisome, as they seemed to be about the paper being too specialized, and two of them made a point of suggesting what the editor or reviewer thought to be more suitable journals. But then came the awful experience of my paper being held by Theory and Decision for more than a year-and-a half, with editor Mohammed Abdellaoui refusing to communicate with me about what the Hell were happening. And this was followed by a perverse rejection at the next journal from a reviewer with a conflict of interest. Six rejections[1] might not seem like a lot, but there really aren't that many academically respected journals which might have published my paper (especially as I vowed never again to submit anything to a Springer journal); I was running-out of possibilities.

I didn't produce my work with my reputation in mind, and I wouldn't see damage to my reputation as the worst consequence of my work being rejected; but de Morgan's book drew my attention to the grim fact that my work, which is heterodox and foundational, was in danger of being classified as crackpot, and I along with it.


Crackpots, finding their work dismissed, often vent about the injustice of that rejection. That venting is taken by some as confirmation that the crackpots are crackpots. It's not; it's a natural reäction to a rejection that is perceived to be unjust, whether the perception is correct or not. The psychological effect can be profoundly injurious; crackpots may collapse or snap, but so may people who were perfectly reasonable in their heterodoxy. (Society will be inclined to see a collapse or break as confirmation that the person were a crackpot, until and unless the ostensible authorities reverse themselves, at which point the person may be seen as a martyr.)


As things went from bad to worse for my paper, I dealt with how I felt by compartmentalization and dissociation. When the paper was first given conditional acceptance, my reäction was not one of happiness nor of relief; rather, with some greater prospect that the paper would be published, the structure of compartmentalization came largely undone, and I felt traumatized.


Meanwhile, some other things in my life were going or just-plain went wrong, at least one of which I'll note in some later entry. In any case, the recent quietude of this 'blog hasn't been because I'd lost interest in it, but because properly to continue the 'blog this entry was needed, and I've not been in a good frame-of-mind to write it.


[1] Actually five rejections joined with the behavior of Abdellaoui, which was something far worse than a rejection.

Approaching a Finish

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The conditions for the acceptance of my paper on indecision were revealed to me in early April. Apparently the intention had been to provide them in mid-March, when I was informed of the conditional acceptance, but there'd been a bit of confusion.

Some of the conditions imposed were pretty strong. With the exception of one change,[1] I actively disliked every one of them. I thought that some of them sought reasonable objectives but would bring more cost than benefit; I thought that others were simply wrong-headed.

However, I made or attempted to make all of the changes except for three sorts. I figured that the editor would support me when it came to two of those remaining three sorts, as one would have formatted the references very differently from the journal's own standard (with which the reviewer was apparently unfamiliar) and the other would have dropped-in a proposition that would in fact have been perfectly superfluous in my paper (though an important axiom in most theories of probability).

I was, however, very concerned about the effect of my refusing to make one of the changes against which I dug-in. That change was suggested or demanded (it was not clear which) by the reviewer in order to simplify the presentation by simplifying the structure. Unfortunately, it would also have torn the work from part of its empirical foundations. I genuinely felt that it would be better not to have the paper published than to make the change, yet I was not sure that my intransigence would be properly understood. But I was afforded an opportunity to explain myself on this point (and on every other), and apparently my explanation was accepted.

Yester-day, I was told that the changes that I made had sufficiently addressed the reviewer's original concerns, and that the paper would be accepted conditional upon my modifying the acknowledgments (to be less specific as to what the acknowledged parties had done) and upon my removing the dedication (which the editor or reviewer suggested replacing with an acknowledgment of support). I have made those changes.

I also fixed a broken cross-reference that I had spotted. And I replaced one symbol with another. In order to effect one sort of change that the reviewer had wanted, I had introduced an explicit symbol for binary paralysis. [Erratum (2013:04/25): (Well, actually, for the union of binary paralysis with identity.)] Specifically, I used U+224e () [expression using U+224e to represent binary paralysis] I had adopted this particular character because nothing better occurred to me quickly, and I didn't want to grind to a halt over a d_mn'd symbol. (How dreadful to be paralyzed in the choice of a symbol for paralysis!) But I wasn't comfortable with it. I felt that the reader would have trouble remembering what it meant as it occurred here-and-there, that it was too suggestive of an equality, and that it would be awkward to write by hand. I eventually decided that what I wanted was a π (for παράλυσις)[2] centrally superscripted over a dash. [expression using pi over a dash to represent binary paralysis]

Anyway, there is some small chance that my effecting this change of symbols will cause me difficulty with the editor, but I believe that the paper is effectively accepted now. I don't know how long it might be before the paper is actually published.


[1] I had inserted a foot-note specifically to preëmpt a repeat of an inappropriate criticism delivered by the reviewer at the previous journal. I was planning to request, upon acceptance of the paper, that the foot-note be removed. In the event, the latest reviewer insisted that the foot-note be removed.

[2] The Latin p is too readily associated with preference, and indeed P was once very common for the binary relation of strict preference or that of weak preference.

Conditional Acceptance

Monday, 19 March 2012

On 16 March, I queried the journal to which I most recently submitted my paper on operationalizing the difference between indifference and indecision. To-day, I received informal e.mail from the editor letting me know

The paper is accepted, pending some (substantial) revisions. You’ll be getting the formal material from the journal soon.
I dread the thought of subtantial revisions, but it's to be presumed that I can live with the changes demanded. The state of things appears to be excellent.

Paper Up-Date

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

As previously noted, I submitted my paper on indecision to yet another journal on 28 July. On 11 August, the reported status of the paper was changed to With Editor. Yester-day, 12 December, that was changed to Under Review, which indicates that the paper has been sent onward to one or more reviewers.

Editors generally have the authority to reject papers on their own authority. If they think that a paper might be appropriate to the journal, then they send the paper on to one or two reviewers, with ostensible expertise in the specific area of the paper. These reviewers judge the paper to be suitable as it stands, or suggest revisions that would make it suitable, or decide that it is unlikely to become suitable even after revision. At some journals, editors have the authority to over-rule reviewers, but such is rarely done.

Most submitted papers are rejected by editors before they reach reviewers. Most papers that reach reviewers are rejected by those reviewers. Most that are not rejected are required to be revised in some way, small or large.

I don't know why the paper was listed as With Editor for almost exactly four months. The editor may have been too busy to evaluate the paper at all, or may have spent a fair amount of time in his-or-her own evaluation of it, or may have had trouble finding a reviewer for it.

Movin' on down the Line

Sunday, 7 August 2011

After the fiasco with Theory and Decision (see my entry of 28 March and that of 18 April), I submitted my paper on indecision to yet another journal on 23 April.

To my surprise, that journal gave my paper for review to someone whom I regard as having a markèd conflict-of-interest. I know to whom they gave it because the rejecting review that I received on 16 Jun was, also to my surprise, attributed rather than anonymous.

Some of the criticism was legitimate, but would best have been handled by directing me to revise-and-resubmit. Some of the important criticism was absurd.

For example, the reviewer declared

this is not how one writes proofs in general (except may be in logic)
Considering that the propositions are almost exclusively formal logic (there not being much arithmetic to the structure), it's rather to be expected that the proofs will look as proofs (in or out of quotation marks) do in logic.

And, in defending the attempt to distinguish indecision from indifference found in Indifference or Indecision? by Eliaz and Ok, the reviewer wrote that Mrs Watson (a hypothetical agent presented in that paper)

is indecisive whenever she deems multiple choices as choosable
But she also deems multiple choices as choosable when she is indifferent, and in both cases (according to Eliaz and Ok) makes her decision by flipping a coin.

(In fact, Eliaz and Ok claim something more interesting about what distinguishes indecision from indifference, but an observable distinction does not result from it.)

I stared for a bit, and then sent to the reviewer a simple request for permission to cite the review in future versions of the paper. (I offered no argument or evaluation; I just requested permission to cite.) The review is plainly not itself a publication; it seems closer to being a personal communication. And one is supposed to secure permission before citing personal communications.

I waited for some days, and got no reply. I concluded that none would be forth-coming. I therefore effected what changes I felt should be made given that I could not cite the review, both to make straight-forward improvements, and to preëmptively meet repetition of what I regarded as illegitimate criticisms.

Then I went over my big spread-sheet o' econ journals, and selected the next journal to which to submit the paper. As with previous submissions, I read the author guidelines, and did some further rewriting and reformatting to tailor a version specific to that journal. I made the new submission on 28 July. Its reported status when I checked this morning was the same as that when I completed the submission process, so I presume that no editor has accepted assignment to it.

Not Dead; Just Pining

Saturday, 6 August 2011

The recent relative quiescence of this 'blog has obtained from a confluence of things. I have rival demands of my time or of my energy, have not always been in the best of moods, and have not known quite how I want to formulate some of the entries upon which I have been working.

With respect to the last, one problem has been that I've wanted to present the entries in a certain order (or at least a certain preörder), which has allowed bottle-necks to develop. I think, now, that I'd better loosen-up on some of these considerations of the order of entries.

Speeding-up by Slowing-Down

Friday, 1 July 2011

Having retrieved a previous month's USPS mail, I was flipping through the July-August issue of American Scientist (v99 #4), and found a picture captioned thus:

Middle-aged and elderly people exercising during Respect for the Aged Day in Tokyo in 2005. Japan's population is aging particularly quickly. The ratio of people younger than 20 compared to those older than 65 is shifting, from 9.3 in 1950 to a predicted 0.59 in 2025. If scientists succeed at slowing aging, this trend may well accelerate.
(Underscores mine.) So the caption is claiming that the population is aging quickly and may age even more quickly if aging is slowed.

Now, what's really happening in that caption is that the verb age is being used in two related but very different senses. In aging particularly quickly, the sense is one of increase in average chronological age; in slowing aging, the sense is one of become decrepit. The underlying thought is entirely reasonable; the expression is inept, because it moves from one meaning to the other (and then implicitly back to the first) without signally that it is doing so except in the sense that the passage is otherwise absurd; best not to make the reader sort-out such things.

I don't know who wrote that caption. The author of the piece in which it is embedded actually notes

the word aging refers to different things
exactly to explain how confusions of these meanings results in practice in logically invalid arguments.

Personal Miscellany

Monday, 23 May 2011

I was sufficiently perturbed by the typographical error in the version that I most recently submitted of my paper on indecision that I decided that, were it not bounced back to me before the first mensiversary of its submission, I would offer a correction. (My thought in waiting a month was that I should limit the frequency with which I pestered them.) I did so, and the journal accepted that with perfect helpfulness.


I am still wrestling with Sprint over charges to my account for mobile broadband service.


On 11 May, I opted to switch my principal operating system to Fedora. (I had been considering Scientific Linux as well.) I've since had some problems with installing fonts for all users, and the system has been a little bit flakier, but on the whole the new operating system has been a satisfying choice.


I am scheduled for some non-trivial dental work on the mornings of 26 and 27 May. Two fillings that I have had since childhood have eroded to the point that they should be replaced, and there is to be a deep cleaning below my gum-line.


The Woman of Interest and I will be visiting my parents for a few days at the end of the month. (I plan to stay-on for some time after she has flown away.)

Accidental Curve Ball

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Early on Saturday morning, I submitted my paper to yet another journal. Alas, on Sunday, I discovered a typographical error in one of the formulæ.

The formula should read R = {X_1,X_2,...}^2 \ {(X_1, X_2) s.t. [(X_1 WP X_2) v (X_2 WP X_1)]} But instead it read R = {X_1,X_2,...}^2 \ {(X_1, X_2) v. [(X_1 WP X_2) v (X_2 WP X_1)]} That's because I had been using a vertical bar for such that, intended to replace it with a backwards epsilon (to be consistent), but got lost or distracted and instead dropped-in a second disjunction sign.

Perhaps I should contact the editors, but this formula simply appears in an incidental remark. I can correct things if the paper is accepted, and I will just hope that no reviewer is so offended as to reject the paper based on the error.

[Up-Date (2011:05/23): I've been sufficiently perturbed about this matter that I decided that, were the paper not bounced-back to me before it had been in their hands for a month, I would send them a note, with a link to a correction. (The idea in waiting a month was to ration any pestering of the editors.) I did so a few minutes ago.]

Closure

Monday, 18 April 2011

My previously reported message to Springer, announcing that my paper was no longer on offer to them, was sent at 7:03 PM PDT on 28 March. (My last entry on the history of the submission was posted a couple of minutes later.) At 7:31 PM PDT, I received the fastest reply that I'd got from Springer:

We are extremely sorry for the delay.

I have not yet received any response from the editor in this regard.

However, I have taken your mail with high priority and will surely inform you about the outcome.

Many thanks for your patience.
As a general matter, it's an interesting tactic to act as if someone has not made a declaration that one doesn't want them to have made, in the hope that it will be rescinded de facto; sometimes that tactic works. But, while I would have been open to Springer's negotiating for the article, I continued to operate on the presumption that the paper would have to be submitted elsewhere.

I changed various things (largely as I'd indicated at the end of my previous entry on the paper), and began looking for-and-over a list of other journals to which I might submit it. (Unsurprisingly, I no longer considered any of those published by Springer to be candidates.)

Meanwhile, I noted that Springer's Editorial Manager continued to list my paper as Under review, and offered me no way of changing its status to indicate that it was not available for consideration. This creäted a potential problem. Typically, simultaneous submission of an article is not acceptable; and, while the article would not in fact have been simultaneously submitted, there was an all-too-plausible scenario under which it could appear to be.

Assuming that the handling editor at Springer has not been even more negligent than he appears to have been, there has been — and should be expected to continue to be — a very real problem finding reviewers for my paper. When the next journal begins looking for reviewers, they will be looking at largely the same pool. I could envision a reviewer saying Wait! I am already reviewing that paper for Theory and Decision! and an ugly mess ensuing.

To-day, at 12:39 PM, I sent the following to the Springer JEO Assistant, with a CC to the Editor-in-Chief,

On 28 March, I informed you that I was no longer offering this paper to you. However, I note that Editorial Manager continues to list it as "Under review", with seemingly no option for me as an author to stop that.

On 23 April, I will be submitting the latest version of the paper to another journal. If indeed this paper is somehow now in the hands of reviewers for Springer, then there is the unfortunate possibility that this other journal would call upon exactly the same reviewers. As I do not want the inappropriate conclusion to be drawn that the paper is being simultaneously submitted, you must contact any reviewers before 23 April, and inform them that the paper was withdrawn from your consideration on 28 March.

If the institutional arrangement there is such that handling editors do not tell you who in particular is reviewing a paper, then you are going to need make a sort of general announcement, as you plainly cannot rely upon the handling editor to act.
At 1:00 PM (even faster!), the following arrived:
I have received the decision from the Editor on your manuscript, THEO789 "Indifference, Indecision, and Coin-Flipping"

With regret, I must inform you that the Editor has decided that your manuscript cannot be accepted for publication in Theory and Decision.

Below, please find the comments for your perusal.

I would like to thank you very much for forwarding your manuscript to us for consideration and wish you every success in finding an alternative place of publication.
There were, in fact, no comments what-so-ever below. We may reasonably infer that they were not so much omitted by the JEO Assistant as simply never made in the first place.

It's of course somewhat offensive that Springer has the felt need to suggest, even pro forma, that they rejected an article which was not theirs to reject. But, at least, I can move on to the next submission without the worry that I'll be accused of unethical behavior.

Anyway, as I indicated to them, the paper will be submitted to a different journal on Saturday.

Up-Date (2011:04/19): This morning, my e.mail included five more messages from the Springer JEO Assistant, all from within a span of two minutes. The first was a CC of a message to the Editor-in-Chief,

Please find the mail below from [confused rendering of my name] who is willing to withdraw the paper.

Kindly let me know if I can set the final disposition in EM as “Withdrawn”.

Thank you very much and looking forward to your response.
This was followed then by three messages directed at my e.mail system as such, attempting to un-deliver that first message (something that some systems permit), then a message
Thank you for your mail.

The editor has rendered the decision for your paper.

Curious, I have checked the Editorial Manager status for the paper, which remains that of alleged rejection, rather than of withdrawal.

I'd already suspected that the last message from yester-day had not actually come from the JEO Assistant, though the e.mail address was hers, and that it was likely to have been an automated result of someone else entering a rejection into Editorial Manager. Beyond that, I don't know what here is mindlessness and what here is editorial pique.