New answers tagged

1

I believe that human error is the most common reason for inaccuracy in peer-reviewed scientific articles, but I must respectfully add another reason: academic politics. I served as a peer reviewer for over 20 years. I typically spent 10-20 hours on each review, because informational integrity is the bedrock of scientific advancement. The longer I served as a ...


0

They are just varying species of boilerplate, absolutely. Either automated or not. Almost nothing can be gleaned from them, coming from "high status" journals. In particular, thinking in terms of rewriting and resubmitting to the same journal is probably misguided and a waste of your time and effort.


1

If you're worried about the impact (on how "good" your paper is) of not having local access to colleagues with a deep background knowledge of the field, you could try submitting to a journal that has an open, public review stage prior to its formal, traditional peer review, to get access to a pool of expertise. There exist some journals with such ...


3

I think you should treat them as honest statements. They may be boilerplate, of course, since journals often get more submissions than are possible to publish on any reasonable time scale. They therefor have such "boilerplate" ready to ease the editor's work. The first implies something lacking in the paper itself wrt the standards of that journal, ...


0

I would say there is another source of errors in peer-reviewed publications. The latter need to contain something new, so they are often state-of-the-art, and it is just hard both to produce and review their results, hence the errors.


1

"If you can prove ownership of the patent for the wheel, I'll happily exempt you from reinventing it." Adopt pleasant banter or stern arrogance according to your usual teaching style.


2

For the last student who asked me this, I pulled out Gradshteyn and Ryzhik (my copy from 1992). My first line (in joke voice) was "Alright, get to memorizing." Then I flipped to page xxiii and pointed at the text leading up to "We then kept only the simplest formula." Then jumped to page xxiv to the line "Thus, before looking up an ...


7

Feynman cut to the heart of this issue in The Feynman Tips on Physics: I have a few moments left, so I’d like to make a little speech about the relation of the mathematics to the physics—which, in fact, was well illustrated by this little example. It will not do to memorize the formulas, and to say to yourself, “I know all the formulas; all I gotta do is ...


1

The reviewer is not responsible for the content of an article. He gives his opinion on the novelty and scientific rigour, and recommends acceptance or rejection based upon that opinion. He has the freedom to recommend improvements, and is expected to point out whatever appears to be erroneous to him. The author must not lie (that would create a liability on ...


4

The testing situation you describe sounds like a multifactor problem with multiple possible solutions. It could be that a concern for cheating is the key concern here, but logically speaking, there are several distinct factors that could play a role. Someone can be concerned about cheating and still create a fair test. From an instructional design ...


24

Yes, it is possible. The institution doesn't matter. The advisor doesn't matter. What matters is the content (and correctness) of the paper, along with a judgement about its "novelty". Those judgements will be made by reviewers and editors, independent of where the paper originates. Good writing helps, of course.


1

I agree with your student. I have a PhD in physics and used math as a toolbox. A wonderful, useful, shiny toolbox. The kind of toolbox where you know that in order to find the roots of 3x^2-9x+2=0 you would find delta etc. I do not care how it was found, because this is a tool (I am not interested how a screwdriver is built either). This is really, honestly ...


2

Let me formulate a contra-answer to the one from Graham: I am also a mathematician, and I have worked as a software engineer for several firms. One of them had created their own development environment, which generated a whole bunch of binaries and one textfile. All those automatically generated things together were the actual product. After six years, I was ...


2

Because you need it to pass the exam. Call my cynical, but that's the ultimate reason. Not wanting to reinvent the wheel is often very reasonable, e.g. if you were asked to prove Fermat's Last Theorem, you would be foolhardy to attempt to prove it yourself instead of searching up Andrew Wile's proof. The great benefit of attempting to prove the identities ...


38

I was that student. And the reason is mainly not because I was a bad student, or a bad engineer (a 2:1 degree and 25 years in industry should answer those points). It was because my lecturers were bad teachers. And yes, you too may be a bad teacher right now, without realising it. The difference is that you've seen this student's question as a challenge to ...


4

I'm an engineer and peer reviewing papers in my field for complete correctness is nearly impossible, as papers typically summarize findings with novel computer codes or experiments I don't have direct access to. I review a paper to see that it is free of obvious fallacy, on topic for the publication, and appears to represent work of sufficient quality and ...


1

Maybe your student is seeing only the traditional aspect of the proof: a mean of verification, validation, conviction. If this is the case and the student believe the identities are true, there is no reason to bother to prove them. Then, you could try to explain and work with the other functions of the proof: explanation, systematisation, discovery, ...


9

Ideally, this would not happen, but it is near unavoidable. For instance, if you are refereeing a proof, chances are you won't read it line-by-line. In fact, when I can only read a mathematical argument that way, it is because I have not yet understood it, and this is a really bad way of verifying global correctness, or coherence, or originality. A lot may ...


15

I'm a mathematics graduate currently working in computer science and data analysis. In my experience it is difficult (if not impossible) to memorize every single aspect of mathematics, especially for identities which could be combined with one another in various complicated ways to produce infinite results. Instead I find it useful to start with the most ...


10

Counter by Having the student consider why a musician or athlete practices routinely, and offering an unsolved problem to prove as an alternative. Together these points should prove compelling, assuming the student's objections were truly sincere.


7

You are overthinking this. You have not cheated, and there is no need to do anything further. The goal of assignments generally is to make students learn how to independently solve the problems, and assess them on it. This is why directly copying others' work is disallowed while discussion of ideas (to a limited extent) is allowed: discussing ideas helps ...


4

I can't speak to your specific institution, because it may have different rules, but here are some general thoughts: Academic integrity rules are there to protect the degree. If it comes out that basically an entire class (or even just a single student) got their degree through work other than their own, then that degree is essentially worthless. However, ...


1

I was that student NOTE - Since I posted this there has been a similar answer by @Graham - However Graham's answer is so much better explained than mine that I have upvoted it and will probably delete mine. Not as an undergraduate but before that in secondary education. I resented doing chemistry and physics experiments because they were printed in books ...


3

Doing math is different from 'knowing math'. With knowing math I mean memorizing formulas and concepts. We all probably have experienced this in an exam that contained math: you think you know some formula but when you're in the exam you notice you don't actually know how to implement it in practice. Proving identities is one of the best ways of getting some ...


2

I don't really agree with this, I have looked at qualifying exams from the 60s and their difficulty was less, or at least their assumed background was less. For example, many only tested on an understanding of advanced calculus instead of measure theory. Todays exams are far more indepth.


1

I agree with this trend from physics, though my specific program has increased in prestige over time so it was less noticeable. I don't think it's that people now are less innately talented or genius. The number of people getting physics phds has gone up, but access has also significantly increased. It reminds me of the quote by Gould: "I am, somehow, ...


6

If you have access to Web of Science (and perhaps other databases), this is (kind of) straightforward. Search for Journal of Algebra in Publication Name, limiting the date range at least initially to something reasonable. As of mid-September 2020, searching on year-to-date yielded 410 entries. The search results can then be dumped into Excel, choosing to get ...


4

My answer would go along the line: It's a bad idea to blindly believe everything you read. We all know that there's a lot of nonsense out there in the internet. So you better be able to judge yourself, and this exercise is part of teaching you how to evaluate whether some mathematical claim is true or not. Maybe it would raise motivation to have the ...


137

Someone said:* When you reinvent the wheel, you end up learning a great deal about why wheels are round. And that is really the point. When you’re at university to get a degree in wheels, you should fully expect not just to be told that wheels exist but to be asked to think deeply about them so that you develop an understanding, at the deepest level, of ...


1

There are a couple of good reasons: firstly (at least when it comes to first-principles mathematical proofs), the skills involved in reinventing the wheel are very similar to the skills involved in inventing something new, so repeatedly reinventing the wheel is good practice for later inventing something new; secondly, undergraduate students are in training ...


67

The student seems to have the misconception that mathematics is about "facts". Early education stresses elementary facts a lot, so this is pretty natural. But mathematics is about understanding relationships, not memorizing facts. If you don't know why something in mathematics is true, you really don't understand it. The proofs in mathematics are ...


14

You can tell the student the following: The goal of homework is not to prove new things that the instructor doesn't know, but rather to give the students knowledge and experience in using the tools given to them. This is called "learning" - probably your course/institute has some goal the students "learn" something. You could refer him to ...


16

Going by my experience in reviewing papers, it's virtually impossible to really review every aspect of a paper. This is particularly the case in some fields where the supplementary methods go for 100s of pages and the code may be 10s of 1000s of lines long. It's unlikely that all reviewers have the in depth knowledge of specific fields and the huge amount of ...


3

Speaking as a physics grad you can clearly observe this trend in our quals as well. For example UIUC has an archive with exams going back to 1995:https://physics.illinois.edu/academics/graduates/qual-archive. You can see a clear trend of the difficulty going down. Princeton's are still hard though but they seem to take the difficulty of their qual as a point ...


98

People make mistakes. Manuscript authors, reviewers, and editors are people, and people are not perfect. Even if every person involved in the publication of a manuscript catches 99% of all errors, it's still possible that some errors will go unnoticed. This likelihood of course goes up when authors/reviewers are careless, but it can never be eliminated ...


-2

I have a double major in physics and computer science, bachelor of Applied Science. If your goal is to get into research my advice to you personally is to leverage your skill in computer science in order to get to the best physics PHD program you can find. I think the most interesting and also commercially oriented work is where physics combines with ...


4

This is a peculiar situation. Your supervisor did not honor your agreement, but at this point she has nothing to gain from continuing to be involved with your thesis, and being angry about that isn't going to help you in any way. Realistically, do not expect any more input from her, and move on. Getting someone else to look at your thesis could be useful, ...


4

I e-mailed her 4-5 times in February-March and got no reply. If she did not reply to your e-mails or otherwise advise you when she was technically your advisor, why would she reply to them now that you have graduated? I think she has effectively ended your relationship. I do not know whether she had good reason for this or if she is just lazy, but either ...


4

Going to the younger colleague is fine, but I also wouldn't hesitate to go to your advisor again. It is, after all, part of his job to train you. Prepare a detailed explanation of the problem you see with the proof and the spots where you think it is tricky. If you're conscientious in narrowing down the scope of the issue, you surely won't be wasting his ...


1

You should talk to the professor in advance. Explain your reasons. Then they will understand why you are not on their class list, miss class occasionally (don't do this too often) and don't turn in assignments. If you can ask interesting questions in class, do. There is a small chance that you will be told "no" and a small chance that there is an ...


3

It is fine. If it makes you feel better though you could clarify that the reason you're not taking it isn't just worry about the class. I have used the line in an email before "I have an amateur interest in learning the material" which I think deflects any concern about why you're not committing to doing the course 'properly'. When I said it, it ...


3

It's absolutely possible that the theorem is wrong. Even with peer-review, invalid theorems get published, especially when a plausible looking sketch is presented. Equally, it is possible that the theorem is true. Moving forwards, try to expand the proof sketch into a proof. If you get stuck, try to construct counterexamples. If you can't proceed, reach out ...


8

I think the key to realize here is that you guys aren't doing the same jobs. Your titles may all be "TA", but they're not any more interchangeable than three people with the title "professor" are. And I assure you that professors get paid different amounts across different departments. All the usual economic forces may be at play. ...


8

It's complicated and depends on a lot of power dynamics between and within departments. A few things that influence the system: there is a correlation between research pay and TA pay for grad students. They are likely to be closer in departments where many grad students both teach and do research (no one wants their paycheck to vary wildly as they go back ...


1

I think it's fine to say something in the introduction like "at a late stage of the development of this paper, the paper X, which had previous developed idea A, was pointed out to me." If you're worried about whether to leave in proofs for the results in paper X, that's a judgement call. You can always say "we include a new proof to ...


2

This is a tough one. It's really terrible that academia is set up to essentially require several moves from people, but that kind of is the setup at the moment. You're right that with COVID, a lot of old assumptions are being questioned, and the idea that you have to physically be in the office is obviously out the window, so you never know. There's not ...


8

I’ll only address the US in this answer. Some of this may not be applicable to other countries. The large majority of US pure math postdocs are mixed teaching and research positions, typically with a three year term. Even though teaching is happening remotely at many schools nowadays, you are asking how departments view the idea of a remote postdoc; well, ...


1

It's all about time management my friend. You need to learn how to adapt and the first step to start adapting is to set your timing schedule. A time schedule for the day with clear tasks, for the week..etc. You need to start working out or at the very least walk/squat for 5 minutes from time to time while you are doing a task for every 30 minutes, it will ...


6

It looks like Springer does this using cookies. I also observed what you described in the question. I was able to access articles that had a paywall when I was neither in my university's IP range nor logged in. However, at the footer of the page, near the copyright notice, it showed name of my university and a mention that this was what gave me access to ...


4

A mathematical argument speaks for itself and its validity does not hinge on the blessing or confirmation of a single individual, even if the argument corrects a mistake that individual has made previously. So I think your premise that you need to include anything about the error being confirmed by the original author as some kind of “supporting evidence” is ...


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