Treat your reviewers well

S&P asks its reviewers to overcome the discipline’s culture of procrastination and supply reviews within a default of 4 weeks (sometimes more for especially complex or long papers). We try to repay reviewers in two ways that we consider best practices:

  • Reviewers are copied on editorial decisions. They are sent the editor’s feedback to the author and copies of all the reviews.
  • Reviewers are notified when a paper they worked on for us is published.

Neither practice is as widespread as it should be. In fact, sometimes when we have a new editorial team member, they are skeptical about sharing the entire editorial feedback with the reviewers. It doesn’t take long for them to change their minds when we get the usual enthusiastic feedback from reviewers.

This morning we published a new paper and I spent a few minutes notifying the five reviewers that had worked on various iterations of the article. I just got this response: “Thanks for letting me know. It’s nice of you to do this for reviewers. I wish other journals would follow you too …”

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Get cloaked!

I like to take my devices to coffeeshops and get some work done. I also travel once in a while. At all those times I connect via wireless connections that are far from secure. So, a few months ago I discovered Cloak, a great VPN service that painlessly and automatically secures my net traffic every time I connect to a wireless network that I haven’t explicitly marked as trusted. I have a $2.99/month “mini” subscription that gives me 5GB of data throughput. My laptop, my iPhone, and my iPad are all set up to use the service. Highly recommended!

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Summer Institute on The Investigation of Linguistic Meaning

[Posting this to boost the signal. This seems like an awesome opportunity.]

Call for Applications

The Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin and the National Humanities Center in North Carolina are soliciting applications for the 2015/16 SIAS Summer Institute: The Investigation of Linguistic Meaning: In the Armchair, in the Field, and in the Lab. The Summer Institute wants to attract junior postdoctoral researchers (PhD 2009 or later) from one of three fields: (a) Theoretical Linguistics, especially Semantics and its interfaces with Pragmatics, Syntax, and Phonology, (b) Cognitive Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience, and (c) Linguistic and Anthropological Fieldwork. SIAS Summer Institutes are designed to support the development of scholarly networks and collaborative projects among young scholars from the United States and Europe. The institutes are open to scholars who have received a Ph.D. within the past five years and Ph.D. candidates who are now studying or teaching at a European or American institution of higher education. Each institute accommodates twenty participants and is built around two summer workshops, one held in the United States and another in Europe in consecutive years. One goal of the 2015/16 Summer Institute will be interdisciplinary team building, resulting in joint publications at the end of the project. A second goal will be capacity building, especially the acquisition of methods in the neighboring fields.

Dates

July 20 to 31, 2015, Berlin, Germany, organized by the Wissenschaftskolleg and ZAS

July 18 to 29, 2016, National Humanities Center, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina

Application deadline: January 6, 2015. Full call for applications with application details:

https://udrive.oit.umass.edu/kratzer/siassi-announcement-2015-2016.pdf

Conveners

Angelika KRATZER, Professor of Linguistics, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Manfred KRIFKA, Professor of General Linguistics at Humboldt Universität Berlin and Director of the Zentrum für Sprachwissenschaft, Berlin (ZAS).

Guest lecturers

Emmanuel CHEMLA, Research Scientist (CNRS), Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives et Psycholinguistique, École Normale Supérieure, Paris

Lisa MATTHEWSON, Professor, Department of Linguistics, University of British Columbia

Jesse SNEDEKER, Professor, Department of Psychology, Harvard University

Malte ZIMMERMANN, Professor of Semantics and Theory of Grammar, Universität Potsdam

Stipends and expenses

The program will cover the cost of travel, meals, lodging, and texts for both the United States and European meetings. Fellows will also receive a small stipend.

Sponsors and administration

In the United States the institutes are administered by the National Humanities Center. In Europe they are administered by the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. The program is made possible by grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. The SIAS Summer Institutes are sponsored by SIAS (Some Institutes for Advanced Study) consisting of the following institutes:

  • Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, CA
  • Institute for Advanced Study, Hebrew University Jerusalem, Israel
  • Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ
  • National Humanities Center, Research Triangle Park, NC
  • Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study, Wassenaar, Netherlands
  • Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, MA
  • Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study in the Social Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden
  • Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, Germany

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Keep reviewers in the loop

S&P makes a point of keeping reviewers informed about the fate of papers they review, copying them on the editorial decision, forwarding the other reviews, and letting them know if and when the paper gets published. We think that reviewers deserve to be kept in the loop. I get annoyed when I work on reviews for other journals and am not at all kept in the loop.

At this time of the year, I begin to feel the same about promotion and tenure letters I wrote over the summer. I find it irksome that departments do not let me know what happened to the cases I wrote for. Why is this not common practice?

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Apple Watch Purchase Prevention

This is the Apple Watch edition of my new Purchase Prevention Program, trying to keep me from early adopting.


Smart watches are going to be the new hotness, especially once the Apple Watch is out. I’m going to stick with my trusted basic Citizen watch for a while longer. Here’s what would persuade me:

  • an elegant stylish design that doesn’t scream “nerd”
  • displays just the time and date in analog form in its default appearance
  • displays an alert when there’s a message from a VIP connection
  • excellent speech recognition so I can respond to messages on the spot
  • functionality to take voice memos on the go
  • full set of GPS, altimeter, pulse rate, etc sensors so it can track my runs and every day activities
  • robustness so it can withstand movement and sweat when I’m exercising
  • standalone functioning, does not need a phone nearby (don’t want to lug anything else along when I’m on long runs)
  • can send music to Bluetooth earphones

I suspect that the third generation Apple watch will get close to this package but perhaps Garmin, Fitbit, UP or the like will beat them to it. In the meantime, I hope all the early adopters buy loads of early models so that R&D continues at full speed. Ping me when my dream watch is on the market.

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A guide for the perplexed author in semantics

Note: at the upcoming LSA annual meeting in Portland, I will be part of a session about the publication process. My role will be to talk about open access in linguistics. I just remembered that I had lying around a draft guide to publishing articles. So, here’s the draft. I’d be very grateful for feedback so I can improve this document but also figure out what makes sense to talk about in Portland.

You have written something that you think other people should read. You want the input of other experts. You want your ideas to make their way through the discipline. You want the excellence of your ideas to reflect positively on you. How best to achieve those goals? What follows are my recommendations. These are my opinions only, but I have reached them over my 25 years in the discipline. I hope that some might find this subjective guide useful.

My main prescription is: disseminate early, often, and relentlessly.

Make your work available

As soon as you have a handout or slides that you’ve used for an official talk, put that on your website. When you have a draft paper, put it on your website. In each case, also point people at it through whatever networks you are part of (your department, contacts at other institutions, your Facebook, Twitter, Google+ connections).

Post to repositories

By the time you have a revised draft that is ready for submission, it’s time to also share it via disciplinary repositories (LingBuzz, Semantics Archive, PhilPapers).


Excursus: Why not stop here? Why submit to peer-reviewed journals? At some point in the future, we might reach a system where you post something to the disciplinary repository, peer review occurs in the open, and you revise your paper accordingly. The paper gets rated and assessed by various metrics (likes, number of comments, number of downloads, number of citation). We are not there yet. And to be honest, I am a firm believer in high quality peer review of the old-fashioned kind. If and when we move to the kind of free-for-all I just sketched, I’m worried that quality work from young and hereto-forth unknown authors will not get the attention it deserves. Of course, whatever the superstars put in the repository will get all the attention it deserves (and more). But the expert feedback curation from good editors and peer reviewers of good journals makes it much more likely that the discipline will be exposed to the merits of new work even if it doesn’t come from the superstars.

So, yes, submit to peer-reviewed journals. I hope they’re here to stay.


Choosing a journal

When it comes time to submit your work to a journal, the first consideration in choosing a journal is whether it is an appropriate and adequately high profile venue for the work. Journals differ along various additional dimensions: quality of peer review and editorial feedback, speediness of the review and decision process, respect for author’s rights (including the right to make available preprints and postprints), quality (and existence) of copy-editing, quality (and existence) of professional typesetting (including whether they accept LaTeX source rather than insisting on a less sophisticated format), whether or not they publish an online-first/early version of a paper as soon as it is ready, speediness of publication of print version. If you are new-ish to the field, you should ask for advice from trusted mentors.

Don’t let them lock up your work

Many journals lock up your work behind a toll access barrier. You should attempt to mitigate that lock up, because it is in your best interest for your work to be as easily accessible by as many readers as possible. It is imperative that you carefully read the publishing agreement that the publisher will ask you to sign. Make sure to understand in detail which rights to your own work you are being asked to sign away. In fact, it makes a lot of sense to include this in your decision of where to submit. There is a handy service that lets you explore the policies journals have with respect to your rights as an author: Sherpa/RoMEO.

a. Unless forced otherwise by the publisher, keep the early versions of your work (sometimes called preprints) on your website and in disciplinary and/or institutional repositories, but add to the downloads all the bibliographic detail of the published version.

b. Unless the standard publisher’s agreement already gives you the right to provide open access to your final manuscript (sometimes called postprints; the version you prepared for final submission after receiving peer review and editorial feedback, but before copy-editing and publisher’s typesetting), try to insist on that right. You can try to make your signing of the agreement contingent on the publisher accepting an author’s amendment. See the SPARC Addendum.

c. An increasing number of publishers offer to make your paper open access if you pay them a fee. This is called an author-pays hybrid open access model. There is a suspicion that publishers charge excessive author fees (“double dipping” since they still rake in subscription fees for a journal that only contains sporadic open access articles). Some universities subsidize such fees. Fees can also sometimes be charged to grants that funded the research reported in the published article.

d. There are some journals that are entirely open access and charge author fees to fund their operations (this is often called gold open access). This is an unusual model in linguistics and at this point pretty much irrelevant to publication in semantics. Some universities subsidize such fees. Fees can also sometimes be charged to grants that funded the research reported in the published article.

e. There are some journals that are entirely open access and DO NOT charge author fees. These are typically funded through institutional support (this is sometimes called platinum open access). Semantics & Pragmatics is one such journal. Others in adjacent areas are The Philosophers’ Imprint and the Australasian Journal of Logic.

Don’t get involved with edited volumes

Sometimes you might be asked to contribute your work as a chapter in an edited volume or handbook. I have done this (sometimes after having a hard time getting a paper published in a peer-reviewed journal, sometimes because it felt like an easy way to get something out, sometimes because I felt an obligation to the editors). I recommend against it. Edited volumes are a poor vehicle for cutting edge work. They are not as rigorously reviewed as top journals. They are not recognized by promotion & tenure committees as particularly impressive. They often take an enormously long time to get published, often more than even the most egregiously slow journals. Don’t do it.


Any questions or comments? Comment below. Email me. Tweet in response to the announcement of this post on twitter. Leave a Facebook comment.

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MUST and SHOULD figured out

Those of us trying to figure out the meaning of deontic modals, especially the distinction between weak and strong necessity, should just pack in and go on vacation. There’s an official RFC1 that settles the issue.

Scott Bradner, all around internet wizard at Harvard, wrote RFC 2119 “Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels” in 1997. It has this definitive pronouncement on the difference between strong and weak necessity expressions:

  • MUST: This word, or the terms “REQUIRED” or “SHALL”, mean that the definition is an absolute requirement of the specification.
  • SHOULD: This word, or the adjective “RECOMMENDED”, mean that there may exist valid reasons in particular circumstances to ignore a particular item, but the full implications must be understood and carefully weighed before choosing a different course.

Exercise for the reader: do any current semantic proposals mesh with this official pronouncement on how must and should differ?


  1. A Request for Comments (RFC) is a publication of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the Internet Society, the principal technical development and standards-setting bodies for the Internet.” (Wikipedia

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The art and craft of semantics

The Art and Craft of Semantics is a Festschrift for Irene Heim that students, colleagues, and friends presented to her yesterday, October 30, 2014, on the occasion of her 60th birthday. I have two co-authored contributions in the collection:

The definiteness paper is a brief report on a rumored account that’s been floating around for a while. I hope there’ll be follow-up work. The modal comparison paper is a very short plea for Irene’s help with some puzzles that are simply too hard for Angelika and me.

Happy birthday, Irene!

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DSpace statistics

The MIT Libraries just made available a new website displaying various statistics about our Open Access DSpace repository. I have three papers in that archive. Here are the download counts for those papers:

DSpace download stats

And here is a graph with the cumulative download count over time:

DSpace download timeline

I can’t compare this to the download numbers that these articles get at the official publisher sites because publishers don’t seem to share those numbers with their authors. But it makes clear that DSpace is a legitimate distribution venue and that I should probably make as much of my work available through it as is feasible. Stay tuned.

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Quirky conditionals workshop

Next March, there is a workshop on “quirky conditionals” in Leipzig during the German Linguistics Society meeting, where I will be the invited speaker. Below is the description and call for papers (also on LinguistList). The deadline for submitting the two page abstracts is August 15.

Modelling conditionality

This workshop is part of the DGfS 2015 meeting in Leipzig.

Conditionals are a particularly interesting part of language because they offer insight into the way humans reason about possibilities. While analyses traditionally focus on the syntax and semantics of English hypothetical conditionals, other languages employ different strategies to talk about conditionality. Recently there has been an effort to broaden the focus from modelling only English hypothetical conditionals to include other languages, other types of conditionals (e.g. anankastics; relevance conditionals; Imperative And/Or Declarative constructions), and insights from language processing. Nonetheless modelling the interaction of different types of conditionals with tense and mood remains a difficult challenge to compositional semantics.

This workshop aims to provide a forum to discuss models for the syntax and semantics of different conditional constructions in natural language (particularly understudied languages, but also English and German), and to challenge these models with experimental data.

Invited Speaker: Kai von Fintel (MIT)

Organizers: Ryan Bochnak (UC Berkeley), Eva Csipak (Göttingen)


Call for Papers:

Topics for the workshop include, but are not limited to, the following questions:

(1) What constructions are used cross-linguistically to express conditionality, and how should this shape current theories of conditionals? How do these constructions influence our understanding of the nature of modals in general?
 (2) How do recent analyses of anankastics, relevance conditionals, and Imperative-and/or-Declarative constructions hold up when tense and mood come into play? (3) Does data from language processing support current theories of the syntax and semantics of conditionals? Can a probabilistic theory account for the ‘quirky’ non-hypothetical conditionals?

We invite abstracts for 30-minute presentations (20+10) that address any of the questions above or related topics. Abstracts should be anonymous and not exceed two pages (including examples and references; using a 12-point font and 2.5cm/1 inch margins on all four sides).

Please send your abstracts electronically in pdf format by August 15, 2014 to the following address: conditionals2015@gmail.com

Please include your name, affiliation, and title of the abstract in the body of your email.

Important Dates:

Abstract deadline: August 15, 2014
Notification of acceptance: September 15, 2014
Workshop dates: March 5-6, 2015

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Telegram

Going through boxes of old stuff, I came across the April 12, 1988 telegram(!) that told me that I had been accepted into the UMass PhD program in linguistics:

UMass acceptance telegram

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Fruits and veggies would be healthy

A famous example by Sperber & Wilson shows the context dependency of conversational inferences:

He: Will you have some coffee?
She: Coffee would keep me awake.

Depending on whether one surmises that she would like to stay awake, one can infer either a positive or negative answer to whether she would like some coffee.

The April 7, 2014 issue of the “Zits” cartoon gives us a new illustration:

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Only”

In today’s Boston Globe baseball preview section: “Jake Stahl (1912), Ed Barrow (1918), Terry Francona (2004), and John Farrell (2013) are the only Red Sox managers to win the World Series in their first season.”

Hmm. Yeah, no. The Red Sox have had 44 managers in their history, so when 4 of them win the World Series in their first season, does that really merit an “only”? I mean, what is the expected frequency of a manager winning a world series in their first season? Almost certainly a lot less than 4 in 44.

But the more astonishing fact is that of the 8 World Series wins the Red Sox have had, half of them were by rookie managers. (And one of those, Francona, won another one. So, 5 trophies belong to managers who won one in their first season.) That’s definitely not an “only”.

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Every department needs a publication advisor

Every academic department anywhere should designate one of their members to be Publication Advisor. This will be someone who, with the help of their local librarians and whoever else can be helpful, informs themselves about the current state of scholarly publishing. They will learn about their institution’s Open Access Policy (if it exists; otherwise, they may initiate discussions about putting such a policy in place). They will learn to read publication agreements and spot potential pitfalls. They will make themselves familiar with the practices of the leading journals in their discipline. They will look for discipline-appropriate ways of publishing that will give readers open access to research results.

When a member of the department has a manuscript to submit, they can consult the Publication Advisor in their search for a good venue. Throughout the submission and publication process, they can ask the Publication Advisor for advice.

Some universities have staff members who try to fill that role for the entire university. I think that a more local, embedded approach is needed to make progress on the ground.

This idea was prompted by the latest skirmish in the war between scholars and mercenary publishers: http://blogs.library.duke.edu/scholcomm/2014/03/27/attacking-academic-values/ (Nature playing hardball with Duke over Duke’s OA Policy).

Not unrelated: http://news.sciencemag.org/people-events/2014/03/german-university-tells-elsevier-no-deal. More from Spiegel Online: http://www.spiegel.de/wissenschaft/medizin/uni-konstanz-stoppt-verhandlungen-mit-elsevier-zu-teuer-a-961084.html.

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Language Science Press

It’s still early days but the open-access revolution in linguistics continues. Stefan Müller and Martin Haspelmath, with seed funding from the German Science Foundation (DFG), have started an open access monograph press in linguistics called Language Science Press. E-books will be free to authors and readers. There will be a print-on-demand option as well. There are several series planned, including one on “Topics at the Grammar-Discourse Interface”, edited by Philippa Cook, Anke Holler and Cathrine Fabricius-Hansen. I have enthusiastically agreed to be on the editorial board of this series. You can support the venture in many ways. Sign up at http://hpsg.fu-berlin.de/OALI/sign/.

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