The Rise and Fall of Peer Review


A fascinating blog post by Adam Mastroianni, suggesting that peer review is a failed experiment.

From antiquity to modernity, scientists wrote letters and circulated monographs, and the main barriers stopping them from communicating their findings were the cost of paper, postage, or a printing press, or on rare occasions, the cost of a visit from the Catholic Church. Scientific journals appeared in the 1600s, but they operated more like magazines or newsletters, and their processes of picking articles ranged from “we print whatever we get” to “the editor asks his friend what he thinks” to “the whole society votes.” Sometimes journals couldn’t get enough papers to publish, so editors had to go around begging their friends to submit manuscripts, or fill the space themselves. Scientific publishing remained a hodgepodge for centuries.

(Only one of Einstein’s papers was ever peer-reviewed, by the way, and he was so surprised and upset that he published his paper in a different journal instead.)

That all changed after World War II. Governments poured funding into research, and they convened “peer reviewers” to ensure they weren’t wasting their money on foolish proposals. That funding turned into a deluge of papers, and journals that previously struggled to fill their pages now struggled to pick which articles to print. Reviewing papers before publication, which was “quite rare” until the 1960s, became much more common. Then it became universal.

Now pretty much every journal uses outside experts to vet papers, and papers that don’t please reviewers get rejected. You can still write to your friends about your findings, but hiring committees and grant agencies act as if the only science that exists is the stuff published in peer-reviewed journals. This is the grand experiment we’ve been running for six decades.

The results are in. It failed.

Thanks to Scott Delman for the pointer.

The post also cites a scientific paper by Mastroianni that he published direct to his blog, circumventing peer review while allowing him to write in a far more readable style. It's a great read, and you can find it here: Things Could be Worse.

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IO Scotfest: The Age of Voltaire - Nov 18-19

IOHK/IOG will be hosting a meeting at Edinburgh next week. Available online, plus an in-person meetup for folk near Edinburgh.

Let’s celebrate the dawning of a new era for #Cardano together. Join us for a virtual event that will showcase the community’s achievements over the last 5 years & discuss IOG’s vision for the future of Cardano. Learn more: https://lnkd.in/g2bzZEtR


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Angry Reviewer


Angry Reviewer is a tool to provide feedback on your writing. I look forward to trying it out.

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Help, please! Do you know any applications of my work?

When writing an application, it sometimes help if I can point out that monads and type classes, which my research contributed to, are used to process every post on Facebook. (Via Haxl. Thanks, Simon Marlow!)

Do you know of other applications of my work? If so, please email me or list them in the comments. (You can find my email at the bottom of my home page.)

Possible example: I gather Twitter uses monads and implicits in Scala (where implicits were influenced by type classes), but it's hard to find confirmation online. Do you know whether they are used, and how heavily? (It's easier to find such confirmation for The Guardian.)

Possible example: Do you make heavy use of generics in Java? I contributed to their design.

Possible example: I gather protocols in Swift are in part inspired by type classes, but it is hard to find confirmation online. Can you point me to confirmation?

There are many other possibilities. I hope you know some I haven't dreamed of!

Many thanks for your help. Answers are welcome at any time, but would be most useful if they can be provided by 2 September 2022.

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Loose Ends


My daughter Leora Wadler is directing and producing a play, Loose Ends.

Four strangers from differing classes and backgrounds attempt to drink and make merry on their last night in halls against the backdrop of a missing girl – but each of them are carrying secrets.

Hope Street Theatre, Liverpool, 7.30pm, Thursday 4 and Saturday 6 August. 

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Should PLDI join PACMPL?

Via a tweet, the PLDI steering community is asking whether PLDI should join PACMPL. Have your say! (My vote is yes.) 

Should @pldi join ICFP, OOPSLA and POPL in publishing its proceedings in the PACM-PL journal? The PLDI Steering Committee would appreciate your views. Please complete this short survey before the end of Thursday 16 June (AoE): forms.office.com/r/HjwYvq1CGw

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No, No, No

How to say no, a collection of templates that answer "no" to any possible question.

Maker's schedule, manager's schedule, an essay by Paul Graham explaining that meetings for makers and managers have very different costs.

Here's what it costs to say yes, an essay by Ryan Holiday to explain his calendar anorexia.

The last of these quotes Seneca:
No person would give up even an inch of their estate, and the slightest dispute with a neighbor can mean hell to pay; yet we easily let others encroach on our lives—worse, we often pave the way for those who will take it over. No person hands out their money to passers-by, but to how many do each of us hand out our lives! We’re tight-fisted with property and money, yet think too little of wasting time, the one thing about which we should all be the toughest misers.




Object-Oriented Programming — The Trillion Dollar Disaster


Elixir engineer Ilya Suzdalnitski explains from the perspective of an engineer who has used both why he prefers functional programming to object-oriented programming systems. OOPS!

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How to Speak

A master class from Patrick Winston of MIT on how to present ideas clearly. Chockfull of useful advice, much of which I've not seen elsewhere. Recommended.

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It's time once again! The below is copied from https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote. The site is easy to use and registration takes less than five minutes. I'll be voting for the Scottish Green Party.

Deadline for registering to vote in the 5 May 2022 elections

Register by 11:59pm on 14 April to vote in the following elections on 5 May:

  • local government, combined authority mayoral, mayoral and parish council elections in England
  • local government and community council elections in Wales
  • Northern Ireland Assembly election

Register by 11:59pm on 18 April to vote in the local government elections in Scotland on 5 May.

Who can register

You must be aged 16 or over (or 14 or over in Scotland and Wales).

You must also be one of the following:

  • a British citizen
  • an Irish or EU citizen living in the UK
  • a Commonwealth citizen who has permission to enter or stay in the UK, or who does not need permission
  • a citizen of another country living in Scotland or Wales who has permission to enter or stay in the UK, or who does not need permission

Check which elections you’re eligible to vote in.

You can vote when you’re 18 or over. If you live in Scotland or Wales, you can vote in some elections when you’re 16 or over.

You normally only need to register once - not for every election. You’ll need to register again if you’ve changed your name, address or nationality. 

Register online

It usually takes about 5 minutes.

Start now

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