The Rise of the Peer Review Bots

18 August 2019

From Plagiarism Today:

Back in June, behavior scientist Jean-François Bonnefon tweeted about a rejection he had received from an unnamed scientific journal. What made the rejection interesting was that it didn’t come from a human being, but from a bot.

An automated plagiarism-detection tool had determined his paper had a “high level of textual overlap with previous literature” and summarily un-submitted it. However, according to Bonnefon, the sections flagged were elements such as their affiliations and methods, which are logically going to be very similar to previous works.

. . . .

Increasingly, the use of bots in peer review is moving past spelling, grammar and plagiarism checking. As the number of journals and submissions continues to rise, publishers are seeking more and more help from technology.

. . . .

The academic publishing industry has been undergoing some insane growth over the past decade. According to one estimate at University World News, there is approximately 30,000 journals publishing some 2 million articles per year right now. This says nothing of the number of articles submitted. This comes as the global scientific output is estimated to be doubling every nine years.

This rapid growth has put a huge burden on editors and peer reviewers alike. With only 20% of scientists performing peer reviews, this explosive growth is being shouldered by a relatively small group of researchers, many of whom have extremely short careers.

With those workloads increasing, publishers have been regularly turning to technology to help make the peer review process faster and more effective. Some key examples include:

The peer review platform Scholar One teaming with UNSILO to produce an AI that can interpret natural language, extract the key findings and compare those findings to other papers in its database.

  1. Statcheck, an automated tool that can analyze the statistics in paper and spot any abnormalities.
  2. ScienceIE, a competition for teams to create algorithms that could extract the basic facts and ideas from scientific papers.
  3. Publisher Elsevier has developed EVISE, an AI system that, in addition to checking a work for plagiarism, suggests potential peer reviewers and handles correspondence.
  4. Artificial Intelligence Review Assistant or AIRA, which combines other available tools to automatically detect plagiarism, ethical concerns and other potential issues in a paper so they can be flagged for further review. It also suggests peer reviewers.

These are just some of the systems that have either been developed or are in development that have the goal of automating pieces of the peer review process.

While none of these tools aim to replace human peer reviewers and, instead, seek to help them, they still all sit as a front line between the person submitting the paper and the peer reviewer. In all cases, a paper that runs afoul of these bots will find an uphill climb to getting published.

This creates a series of uncomfortable questions. What if the bots are wrong? How will researchers respond? And how will it impact science?

. . . .

YouTube has become well-known for as a place where videos are automatically (or semi-automatically) claimed or removed without cause. Some of this is just poor implementation of Content ID, but much of this is due to poor data and poor matching.

But, more to the point, these bots have changed YouTube culture. YouTubers often spend as much time trying to avoid Content ID or other YouTube bots as they do making their videos. Those who make a living on YouTube are constantly in a fight to avoid demonetization and copyright claims. That has an impact on what they create and how.

Though YouTubers are well known for loudly protesting YouTube’s policies, they have also been very quick to adapt. As YouTube policies and practices have changed, YouTubers have quickly adapted to ensure that their latest uploads aren’t caught in the filters.

It’s an ongoing cycle of YouTube making a change, either in policy, matching or content matched, and YouTubers moving to get around it.

With YouTube, this cycle is very quick because YouTubers typically know what the bots said about their videos almost instantly. With academic publishing that iteration period will be much longer because of the delay in getting the feedback. Still, there’s no reason to assume the same cycle won’t repeat.

. . . .

Even without the aid of advanced bots, editors and peer reviewers have sought out ways to streamline the process and make it easier to determine what research is valuable and what is not worthy of publication.

In recent years, one of the tools that has become the most used and most controversial is the p value. To extremely oversimplify it, a p value (or p-value) is a measure of probability. It basically measures the likelihood that you would get the dataset you found in a study if the null hypothesis were true. As such, a lower p value is considered more statistically valid and only papers with a p value of less than .05 are considered “publishable”.

To be clear, the use of p value in this manner is very controversial. However, that hasn’t stopped many publications from us p value as a gatekeeping tool.

Researchers have responded to this by what is known as p value hacking or p value manipulation. This can be done many different ways including excluding data that raises the p value, limit findings to that which has an appropriately low p value and so forth.

Link to the rest at Plagiarism Today

PG notes that a great many academic publishers are money machines that endlessly repeat how valuable they are for scientists, researchers, etc., around the world as they regularly increase their subscription charges.

The OP caused PG to wonder whether trade publishers do any sort of check for plagiarism before they release a book.

Tumblr and the End of the Eyeballs-Are-Everything Era

18 August 2019

From The Wall Street Journal:

At its apex, Tumblr had more users than both Instagram, now estimated to be worth close to $200 billion to parent Facebook , and Pinterest , which has a market cap of nearly $18 billion. In 2013, Tumblr sold to Yahoo for $1.1 billion. On Monday, the parent company of bought it for a pittance.

The precise amount is hard to pin down but insiders have observed that there are modest homes in Silicon Valley that might be comparable in price. Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s former chief executive, once described Tumblr as an “incredibly special” property with “105 million different blogs, 300 million monthly unique visitors and 120,000 sign-ups every day.”

“We promise not to screw it up,” she famously added. And now look where we are.

Tumblr was ostensibly a blogging site but it quickly became one of the dominant, if hard-to-navigate, social networks of the early aughts. It attracted users who made and shared memes, art, their random thoughts and, eventually, a sense of community. Its mechanisms were opaque to outsiders: For many years, it didn’t have a function for direct messages or even traditional commenting, forcing users to communicate with each other by, among other things, reblogging each other’s posts.

Since it was difficult or impossible for outsiders to insert themselves into conversations, and because it was and still is a place that allows pseudonymous accounts, the site felt safe for members of marginalized communities, says Alexander Cho, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Irvine, who coedited a forthcoming book on the history of Tumblr.

“Tumblr can be as anonymous as you want it to be, and that allows people to share in a way they might not on Facebook,” says Catherine Holderness, Tumblr’s senior community trends analyst.

. . . .

Alas, Tumblr was inherently ill-suited to advertising, says Katrin Tiidenberg, a social-media researcher at Tallinn University in Estonia who has studied Tumblr for years. Its impenetrability was a challenge to advertisers. On top of that, many of its users interspersed their posts on various fandoms, obsessions and memes with sexual content. “A lot of advertising clients, particularly in the U.S., get disproportionately nervous about being seen next to someone’s boobs,” says Dr. Tiidenberg.

Advertisers instead turned increasingly to the ostensibly safer realms of Google and Facebook. Together, the two giants now suck up 57% of all digital ad spend, according to eMarketer. In addition to owning the biggest ad networks, their crown jewels are incredibly sophisticated advertising engines that drive measurable results for advertisers.

. . . .

It also doesn’t help that Tumblr, never a very polished or particularly reliable service to begin with, had a hard time going mobile. That’s where Google and Facebook ended up moving—quickly, through acquisitions and manic development—to maintain their revenue growth.

“The site was just fundamentally broken; it broke all the time” says Klaudia Amenábar, a senior media producer and comics vlogger who is also a self-described Tumblr power user. Now 24, she found the service at 16 and has been on it ever since, building a career in fandoms and social media from what she learned there. “The mobile app is a lot better now, but before, jokes about the mobile app were rampant on Tumblr,” she adds.

In the past year, Tumblr’s traffic has dropped by more than 40%, from approximately 640 million visits in July 2018 to around 380 million now. Much of that drop happened after the service implemented a ban on adult content.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Sorry if you encounter a paywall)

Generating Music With Artificial Intelligence

17 August 2019

Since PG’s earlier post on using artificial intelligence to write fiction generated some interesting comments.

From Medium:

I started playing piano when I was five years old. I used to practice for about an hour every day and let me tell you, an hour felt like forever. I didn’t stop thought, and I kept on practicing though, because I really liked music.

Fast forward a few years and I started doing some really advanced stuff. My hands were literally flying all over the keyboard and I could play with my eyes closed. Just kidding. I wasn’t actually that good but I hope that for a second you thought I was a piano prodigy or something.

I loved almost every aspect of playing the piano. The sound of the music, the feel of the keys… everything except for music theory. It’s like if you took an old dude obsessed with rules and you combined him with musical creativity and ingenuity. Musical grammar, rules to follow when analyzing and writing music, key signatures and time signatures. It’s all a bunch of random stuff floating across the page that you need to remember.

. . . .

But wait, a ton of data? Lots of rules and patterns? Sequences and sequences of notes? This sounds like a perfect job for (dramatic piano music) machine learning!

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.

. . . .

A super quick overview of Recurrent Neural Nets:

  • Vanilla neural networks are bad at sequential or temporal data, they also need fixed input sizes
  • Recurrent Neural Networks solve this problem by having subsequent iterations transfer data from the last, meaning that information gets passed through the network each run through
  • By taking the output of one forward pass and feeding it into the next, you can generate completely new sequences of data. This is known as sampling.

. . . .

After doing some research and learning more about using Recurrent Neural Networks to generate music, I found that it works pretty well. And it’s actually super sick.

. . . .

But it still doesn’t have that oomph to it if you get what I mean. I don’t think this will be replacing the Mozart on my Spotify playlist any time soon. Although it’s super cool that this piece of music was generated entirely by a neural network, given the context, I think most people would be able to tell that it was either composed by either a machine or by me.

Link to the rest at Medium

The OP includes a recording of the output of Alex’s neural network work, the one that lacked oomph.

Alex eventually located a more advanced version of what he was trying to do called The MAESTRO Dataset and Wave2Midi2Wave.

Here’s an example of what this more sophisticated neural network system did, starting with a piece composed by Domenico Scarlatti. The entire recording below was created and synthesized via computer.

7 Great Mysteries About Rare Books and Bibliophiles

17 August 2019

From Crime Reads:

There’s something about a rare or beautiful book that can ignite the darker human passions. Bibliophilia—a love for books as physical objects—might seem a gentle and even noble affliction, but history abounds with tales of obsessive bibliophilic greed, betrayal, theft, blackmail, fraud, assault, and murder. Can mystery fiction be far behind? (Lured by the puns, if nothing else? A Cracking of Spines? Dewey Decimated? The surface has barely been scratched.)

This sampling of well- and lesser-known mysteries about bibliophiles only begins to suggest the range of biblio-crime and biblio-cunning that awaits their readers.

. . . .

John Dunning, Booked to Die (Scribner, 1992)

Denver cop Cliff Janeway moonlights as a savvy collector who knows his way around old bookstores. When a hapless book scout is murdered, Janeway’s rough handling of the suspect earns him a brutality charge, and he quits the force rather than face suspension. Opening his own small shop, he continues to search for the scout’s killer, following a path that leads to more deaths and the mysterious surfacing of rare books the victims once owned. Dunning followed Booked to Die with five more Janeway novels spanning 14 years, making the series a standout for combining high-octane plots and—thanks to Dunning’s own experiences in the trade—a virtual primer in the headaches and pleasures of the rare book business.

. . . .

Joanne Dobson, The Maltese Manuscript (Poisoned Pen, 2003)

With their mix of bookish egos and academic infighting, college English departments are fertile territory for bibliomysteries. In this fifth entry in Dobson’s smart and provocative series, English professor Karen Pelletier is preparing for her college’s conference on “the murder mystery from a feminist perspective.” A leading mystery novelist arrives on campus just as several of the college library’s rare book treasures go missing, including its prize manuscript of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, and a suspect is found dead in the library stacks. Far more knowledgeable in such matters than the police, Karen and the visiting writer investigate on their own. The Maltese Manuscript deftly explores the biblio-minutiae that fascinate and vex collectors, in this case pertaining to elusive editions of mystery and detective fiction.

. . . .

Charlie Lovett, The Bookman’s Tale (Viking, 2013)

Peter Byerly is a recently widowed young antiquarian book dealer slowly regaining his pleasure in the hunt for important rare volumes. When he seeks to authenticate what appears to be his “holy grail” find—an Elizabethan volume whose marginalia proves Shakespeare wrote the plays credited to him—he steps straight into danger. Interwoven with Peter’s discoveries are chapters narrating the book’s provenance, tracing its precarious passage through the hands of various owners over the centuries, from its rakish author to avaricious collectors and murderous forgers.

Link to the rest at Crime Reads

A Writer’s Bare Necessities

17 August 2019

From The Wall Street Journal:

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) is widely known as a “woman’s writer,” a description that doesn’t do justice to her universal appeal. Celebrated Woolf novels such as “To the Lighthouse” and “Mrs. Dalloway” feature strong women, and Woolf was herself a compelling character in her many essays and reviews, gaining an audience in a literary culture that was strongly dominated by men. Those achievements have made her a seminal figure in feminist thought, but like all successful literature, her work speaks to that broader audience she would famously popularize as the “common reader.”

A good case in point is “A Room of One’s Own,” Woolf’s extended essay, published as a stand-alone book, that grew from her 1928 Cambridge lectures in her native England on women in fiction. Her hosts had assigned her the topic, which was general enough, she noted, to perhaps include a few polite remarks on Fanny Burney, Jane Austen and the Brontës.

But Woolf decided to stir things up by exploring why there were so few good books written by women. She pointed to centuries of sexism that discounted what women had to say, making them unlikely to become authors. Economic power rested largely with men, too, and they also tended to get the best educations, which better allowed them to have the skills, income and space needed to thrive as writers.

More women would achieve literary success, Woolf argued, if they had 500 pounds a year—a nice sum at the time—and “a room with a lock on the door,” the cherished “room of one’s own.”

. . . .

She knew firsthand, of course, the limitations often imposed on women of her time. The daughter of Leslie Stephen, a prominent British critic and historian, Woolf was taught mostly at home, although her brothers and half-brothers got university educations. That slight pretty much forced her to learn what she could from perusing her father’s massive personal library, which might have been a blessing in disguise. Perhaps her exclusion from campus life saved Woolf from the arid abstractions of the academy, pointing her instead toward the vivid particularity that informs prose works like “A Room of One’s Own.”

. . . .

In this way, “A Room of One’s Own” endures as a reminder that writing, for all its elevated aura, is the physical act of a human body—a person who must be sustained by basic necessities. Woolf had little truck with the mystique of the starving artist. “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well,” she puckishly observes. Books, she suggests, aren’t divined from Mount Olympus, “but are the work of suffering human beings, and are attached to grossly material things, like health and money and the houses we live in.” It’s an essential truth, though one not often pressed, one gathers, on aspiring authors in today’s MFA programs.

. . . .

She hints that a good book can create a mental space very much like a physical space—“not made of sentences laid end to end, but of sentences built, if an image helps, into arcades or domes.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Sorry if you encounter a paywall)

Little, Brown To Release J.D. Salinger E-books

16 August 2019

From Publishers Weekly:

Little, Brown, in conjunction with the estate of J.D. Salinger, announced plans to release e-book editions of Salinger’s four beloved works of fiction, marking the first time his books have been available in a digital format.

The release of the four books—The Catcher in the Rye, Nine Stories, Franny and Zooey, and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour—An Introduction—in e-book editions (with new cover designs) marks a continuing year-long centennial celebration of Salinger’s acclaimed works of fiction.

. . . .

Reagan Arthur, senior v-p, publisher of Little, Brown. said “This centennial year is an occasion for revisiting J. D. Salinger’s books as well as for approaching them for the first time. So it’s the ideal moment to be publishing his works as e-books.

The release of the e-books will be accompanied by a special focus on libraries and will include a 1,000 e-book giveaway sweepstakes to public libraries in North America organized by OverDrive.

. . . .

Salinger, who died in 2010, rejected digital editions of his work while he was alive. Since his death, Matt Salinger, the author’s son and administrator of the Salinger estate, has continued to carry out his father’s wishes. However, Salinger said the time has come to make sure his father’s books are available to a new generation of readers.

Salinger said “There were few things my father loved more than the full tactile experience of reading a printed book, but he may have loved his readers more—and not just the ‘ideal private reader’ he wrote about, but all his readers. As it became clear to us that increasing numbers of readers today read only e-books, and after I was taken severely (if also humorously) to task by a reader with a disability in Ypsilanti, Michigan, who can’t read except on an electronic device, we decided it was time.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG is 99% certain that the publishing agreements J.D. Salinger signed would not have included ebooks and likely had a reservation of rights clause that provided that all rights not granted to the publisher were reserved to the author.

The publisher paid Salinger’s heirs a tidy sum and they signed either an updated publishing contract or an amendment to the original contracts to permit the publication of ebooks.


It is sadder to find the past again

16 August 2019

It is sadder to find the past again and find it inadequate to the present than it is to have it elude you and remain forever a harmonious conception of memory.

~  F. Scott Fitzgerald

Three Letters from Switzerland

16 August 2019

From The Paris Review:

Between June 1930 and August 1931, after a series of mental health episodes had whittled away at her career, her marriage, and her overall well-being, Zelda Fitzgerald was a patient at Les Rives de Prangins, a clinic in Nyon, Switzerland, where she wasn’t allowed visitors until her treatment had been established. The experience, as one could imagine, was tremendously isolating: once at the center of a lively and glamorous scene, she now found herself utterly alone with her thoughts. Her husband, F. Scott Fitzgerald, sent short notes and flowers every other day. She wrote long letters in reply, tracing the contours of her mind, expressing both love for and frustration with Scott, and detailing, in luscious, iridescent prose, the nonevents of her days. Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda collects more than three hundred of the couple’s letters to each other. Three of Zelda’s letters from Les Rives de Prangins—carefully transcribed with an eye for accuracy, misspellings and all—appear below.

[Fall 1930]

Dearest, my Darling—

Living is cold and technical without you, a death mask of itself.

At seven o:clock I had a bath but you were not in the next room to make it a baptisme of all I was thinking.

At eight o:clock I went to gymnastics but you were not there to turn moving into a harvesting of breezes.

At nine o:clock I went to the tissage and an old man in a white stock [smock?] chanted incantations but you were not there to make his imploring voice seem religious.

At noon I played bridge and watched Dr. Forels profile dissecting the sky, contre jour—

All afternoon I’ve been writing soggy words in the rain and feeling dank inside, and thinking of you—When a person crosses your high forehead and slides down into the pleasant valleys about your dear mouth its like Hannibal crossing the Alps—I love you, dear. You do not walk like a person plowing a storm but like a person very surprised at their means of locomotion, hardly touching the earth, as if each step were experimental—

And you are a darling and it must be awful to have a person always trying to creep inside you the way I do—

Good-night, my Sweet Love


Link to the rest at The Paris Review

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