Not so anonymous peer review

by Henry on April 8, 2006

Fun story in the “Chronicle”:http://chronicle.com/free/2006/04/2006040701t.htm this week, about the perennial academic pastime of trying to figure out the identity of the anonymous referee who dinged your article. Word documents preserve a lot of metadata, including, very often, the author’s name – so that if you submit your review via a Word email attachment (as many journals ask you to these days), and the journal forwards the review unchanged to the article’s author, he or she can figure out who you are without having to play the usual guessing game. I’ve been aware of this for a couple of years (I carefully strip all data before sending reviews out, just in case) – but I suspect that many academics aren’t (some of them may not even realize that Word collates this data automatically).

Best Spam Ever

by Belle Waring on April 8, 2006

I think this is my best spam email ever. It’s part Jonathan Livingston Seagull, and part Russian sci-fi:

“Why is it,” Jonathan puzzled, “that the hardest thing in the world is profoundly serious work, since every bent line illuminates a straight one. They were all just watching and grunting words of welcome, but not one was swift wind. Yet he felt guiltless, breaking the promises he had made.”

Bullshit stock hype, if you wondered. And I can hardly blame my mail; perhaps the coming AI kernel is building in the relentlessly negative spam-filter hive mind. Each time a nonsense phrase is chancily uplifted to poetic virtue the filter “stumbles” and allows it through.

Just how bad is Italy?

by Chris Bertram on April 8, 2006

The website “Sign and Sight”:http://www.signandsight.com/ (an English-language version of “Perlentaucher”:http://www.perlentaucher.de/ ) is a year old, and I’ve only just noticed it. There’s lots of excellent stuff there, including “a piece by Friedrich Christian Delius on the state of Italy”:http://www.signandsight.com/features/697.html , which tells us, inter alia, that the World Bank ranked the Italian legal system 135th/136 (just ahead of Guatemala!) for effectiveness:

bq. The main reason is that the limitation period for crimes continues to run after a trial has opened, and even after a verdict has been passed, right up until the final day of the final instance. Consequently lawyers try to prolong legal proceedings as long as possible. In 2004 alone 210,000 cases fell under the statute of limitations. The perfect scenario for well-off defendants to get away scot-free. Berlusconi himself has profited this way several times.

bq. A well-governed state might have an interest in changing this state of affairs, for example by introducing the usual procedure of suspending the statute of limitations when a trial begins. The governing majority has indeed gathered the energy to make changes, but in an unexpectedly creative way. The limitation periods have now been considerably shortened, from fifteen to seven and a half years, specifically for economic crimes and corruption. There will be no more sentences for the top ten thousand criminals, Mafiosi, corrupt politicians.

There’s much much more.