April 20, 2006

The pro wrestling school of abstract composition

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at April 20, 2006 11:25 AM

Via Christine Dantas: Now this is an abstract. From astro-ph/0604410:

Occam's razor meets WMAP Authors: Joao Magueijo, Rafael D. Sorkin
Using a variety of quantitative implementations of Occam's razor we examine the low quadrupole, the ``axis of evil'' effect and other detections recently made appealing to the excellent WMAP data. We find that some razors {\it fully} demolish the much lauded claims for departures from scale-invariance. They all reduce to pathetic levels the evidence for a low quadrupole (or any other low $\ell$ cut-off), both in the first and third year WMAP releases. The ``axis of evil'' effect is the only anomaly examined here that survives the humiliations of Occam's razor, and even then in the category of ``strong'' rather than ``decisive'' evidence. Statistical considerations aside, differences between the various renditions of the datasets remain worrying.
Yes! I need to write more papers which use words like "demolish", "pathetic", and "humiliations" when describing the effects of my research on competing theories. Also, I am not sure whether I am amused or horrified that there is an "axis of evil" effect in astrophysics. (According to the paper this is "the embarrassing statistical anisotropy exhibited on the largest angular scales" in CMB data.) Who knew Bush was making contributions to this field? Tags: Academia, Science

If only infernokrusher was a more widely respected academic writing style.

Posted by: Lemming | April 20, 2006 12:10 PM

That is an odd abstract! I'm not a CMB dude by any stretch of the imagination, so I don't know how seriously to take these people... The WMAP talk a week after the third-year release didn't mention anything about this "axis of evil", for whatever that's worth.

Initial drafts of one of my early papers did have that "demolish" etc. tone to it, but I had to take it out well before submission to the journal. And the papers I was referring to really had done some remarkably silly things... Ah well, probably for the best. Referee's reports tend to be brutal enough as it is, just think what they'd be like responding to articles with confrontational language (one always assumes such papers will be refereed by the criticized party).

Posted by: Justin | April 20, 2006 1:14 PM

Hah! That's highly amusing and a work of sheer beauty! Pro wrestling is certainly an apt analogy...

I've seen a few abstracts with occasional uses of such language, but I don't think they were as extreme as this one. (Some of the 'comment on' abstracts can be pretty cruel at times. They can also be annoying---especially when they complain about not citing something that was posted the week before.) I still like the 'call to arms' one I posted a few months ago (although it didn't dole out harsh criticisms).

Justin: I wouldn't make that assumption. Sometimes these things can be reviewed by people in neutral or even favorable camps. Neutral is the ideal situation because the other camps might have made their decisions before reading the paper...

Posted by: Mason | April 20, 2006 4:19 PM

Mason, maybe it's different in your field. Certainly when writing a paper about how another group screwed up, I think it's best to assume they'll be referees. Making your argument strong enough to convince a neutral party is good, but if you can make it so strong that even people with some personal stake in you being wrong are convinced - that's the ideal.

In the particular case I mentioned, the journal sent it to two referees, one of whom pretty clearly was associated with the papers being criticized...

Posted by: Justin | April 20, 2006 5:52 PM

PRL (and other journals, but I'm thinking of PRL) has this nice little box of anti-preferences where those people's names (in cases where they exist) tend to get mentioned.

Competitors working on similar problems will see it, but it is typically hoped that people whose competition is a little less friendly will not.

Posted by: Mason | April 20, 2006 7:57 PM

That's an interesting system - come to think of it that's probably possible with astronomy journals too. But one would have to stick it in the "other comments for the editor" part of the readme, it's not (apparently) a common enough request to be specifically mentioned otherwise. Well, fortunately these days I'm working on new data sets rather than reanalyzing old data sets from other groups, so it doesn't matter so much...

Posted by: Justin | April 20, 2006 10:21 PM

PRL's online submission form includes specific fields for both preferences and anti-preferences. I have seen several other journals that also include such specific fields. I typically don't list any anti-preferences (but I do list people among qualified referees, because it actually does do the editor a service by mentioning people---though, in principle, they should be able to figure it out easily enough and I think they usually can even without the hint), but if one thinks that a certain person won't judge one's work fairly, it is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. NSF grant proposals have this as well. It's quite common.

Posted by: Mason | April 21, 2006 12:08 AM
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