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Showing posts from June, 2016

Death by peer review

I recently had the occasion to give some advice a friend who was considering making the switch from industry to academia. One of my key pieces of advice was to keep in mind that success (or failure) in academia is largely based on peer review -- by program committees, proposal review panels, tenure committees. While peer review has many good things going for it, it can also be extremely, dishearteningly random. Being an academic means living your life one peer-review decision to the next, and in many cases, those decisions are simply not the right ones. After a while, a string of semi-random decisions can be psychologically draining.

The law of large numbers certainly applies here. Good work eventually gets published and funded, given enough iterations. Good researchers get their papers in, eventually. Peer review feedback can be incredibly helpful for refining a piece of work and improving it over time. But in the vast majority of cases, papers or proposals, whether accepted or reje…