Review me, critique me, pan me, print me March 14, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, papers, research.
Tags: computers, engineering research, papers, research, simulations
One of the first things I remember asking my MS advisor was how much detail should I include in a paper for publication. He said to make sure there was enough for someone else to replicate the work. When reviewing papers myself, I also look at this as one of the major criteria for publication.
I have tried very hard to stick with this rule of thumb, though there are things I overlook. Given most of my work is simulation, I sometimes forget that there are certain things which I tend to always do in my work, and not everyone does. Or maybe there’s a setting I never use and so the default stays in place. However, someone else may have a different default for that particular setting. And on and on. Regardless, I do my best.
The past couple weeks, I’ve been working on a new set of simulations. I’m basically taking widgets that other people have designed and seeing if I can use them for a particular, and somewhat unusual, application. I think it’s a rather interesting approach to the problem, but I keep getting mucked up. The reason is that several of the widgets I wanted to use are not described adequately in the papers. I’m not talking about some esoteric setting: some of these papers show widgets that don’t give physical dimensions of any of the parts! I have come across three different papers, all suffering the same problem.
I have decided that these papers are going in the round file. I was, at first, inclined to write to some of the authors of these papers and see if I could get some clarification. However, after encountering the third one, I decided it wasn’t worth the effort and decided to use papers from people who are more careful. I’m lucky in that there are several approaches to making these widgets, so I can be picky. That isn’t always the case, however.
I’m sitting here wondering first why the authors didn’t think to include this information and, second, what were the reviewers doing?! It’s not like these are complicated widgets with a million parts. Is it just my field of research? Am I the only one who replicates other people’s work? As much as I think peer review is awesome, I kind of feel like some people have fallen down on the job. It makes me appreciate those third reviewers that much more.