Load balancing, IEEE style

I am shocked at IEEE’s solution to manage the load on their servers.  After I pay $200 per year for subscription and god knows how much my university pays for institutional membership, I get an “all on-line seats are occupied”. Really IEEE.IEEE Fail

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Look before you leap — especially if you are going to jump over others

Today I got 120 odd emails from ISIT. Yes, that is right. 120. All were like this

Dear XXXX

The IEEE Information Theory Society and the Technical Program Committee of ISIT 2010 encourage authors to post preprints of their submitted papers on the arXiv (http://www.arXiv.org/) preprint server at the time of submission. More information can be found at http://www.itsoc.org/publications/arxiv

If you would like to link your arXiv submission to your ISIT 2010 paper
record for

#XXX: ‘XXXXX XXXXXX XXXXXXXX XXXXXX’

for display on the ISIT 2010 website before the symposium begins, you may do so by clicking the following link:

http://www.isit2010.org/arXivUpdate.asp?q=xxxxxxxxxxx

You may alternatively link to a longer version of your ISIT paper. This does not necessarily have to be on arxiv. You can link to any online version.

We feel that this will make it easier for the attendees to browse the technical program and read the papers prior to the symposium, thereby enriching their interaction with the authors at the symposium.

Please note that this action is entirely optional.

Regards,
ISIT 2010 Program Chairs

A noble cause, gone horribly wrong. I suspect someone did not check the automated script and instead of sending emails to individual authors, all emails went to all authors.

As a result, they also had to disable the link to add an arxiv update, and will probably send a whole bunch of emails again. Shudders.

Instead of soliciting preprints from all the authors, wouldn’t it make it easier for attendees to browse the technical program and read the papers prior to the symposium if the organizers simply included a link to the submitted papers? Oh, the irony.

Chasing a moving target

The CDC 2010 deadline has been extended again, this time to April 2nd. First it was March 15th (the call for papers still says March 15th), then it got extended to March 30th (today), and now it has been extended to April 2nd. Seriously, why do conference organizers have to extend the submission deadline? I have heard that sometimes small conferences extend the submission deadline if they fail to receive sufficient papers. But surely a mammoth like CDC (last time I checked it had 1500 participants; my submitted paper has a submission number in late 900s) cannot have that problem. And this is not the first time that CDC has done this. I think that last year the deadline got extended by a month. Why?

I suspect that such extensions are requested by some big and powerful people who could not submit their papers on time. I cannot figure any other logical explanation 😦

Who cares about the reviewer?

I reviewed a paper for ISIT and got an automated reply from the review system.

Dear <TPC member handling the paper>

ISIT 2010 Reviewer <reviewer’s name> has submitted a complete review for the following paper:

< Details of the paper >

Thank you for participating in ISIT 2010.

Err, what!? The automated reply is thanking the TPC member for participating in the review process. And I was the one who spent the whole day reading the paper. After reading this letter of appreciation, I don’t really want to finish the other three reviews.

A new publishing model for academia

Today I received two emails for an invitation to publish a book chapter in a new book project by SCIYO. This is what the email said (I blanked out some information and added emphasis)

Dear Dr.XXXX,

My name is XXXX XXXX and I am contacting you regarding the SCIYO new book project under the working title “XXXX”, XXX-XXX-XXXX-X-X.

Based on your paper “XXXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX”, you are invited to submit a proposal for the book chapter. You are however neither limited to the paper topic nor are we asking you to republish the above paper.

The book will be published by SCIYO, world’s largest science & technology open access publisher. All SCIYO books are published both in hard copy and online, with completely free access to read, share and download.

To enable free access to the worldwide scientific community, Sciyo charges a publication fee of 470 euro per chapter. Publishing fee covers the review process, complementary hard copy and an online edition of the book.

SCIYO is also the first open access academic publisher to pay author royalties based on the number of chapter downloads.

For further details and list of author benefits, please visit

http://www.sciyo.com/invitation/xxxx

I hope that you will accept to participate.

On behalf of SCIYO President XXXX XXXX,

Mrs XXXX XXXX

These were sent to different email addresses, and were soliciting the book chapter based on my two different publications. Both invitations were for the same book, and by the same person.

At first, I was excited to have been invited to submit a book chapter. Then I read the email carefully and realized that I have to pay 470 Euros to get the chapter published. Authors get royalties based on number of downloads (0.2 Euro per 100 downloads). My immediate reaction was that SCIYO is fraud— the Nigerian bank transfer for academic publications. I browsed through some of the published books, and the content is genuine. The book chapters have a more applied flavor than my research, but they contain genuine overview articles. However, I did not recognize any of the authors, even in the fields that I am familiar with.

Surprisingly, Google did not bring up too much information about these publishers. Just two posts: Pay to Play in the Economist and No Thanks in a blog post. In both the posts, someone from SCIYO replied that they are a genuine publisher and their business model is independent of the quality of publication.

Giving the lack of information on the web, this appears to be a recent phenomenon. Their website does not contain any useful information (where are they located, where to buy the books in physical form, the editorial board, etc.). In view of these factors, I will pass this offer. Nonetheless this is an interesting take on open publishing. Instead of making money from the customers, make money from the authors!

Edit 1: See Joe’s comment below. He wrote a chapter for them, paid the publication fee, but the chapter was never published.

Edit 2: After Joe’s comment there was a surge of comments in support of SCYIO. How do four authors, who had published with SCIYO, decide to comment on a month old post within 24 hours after a SCIYO representative replied to Joe’s comment? Make your own judgment on that.

Edit 3: See this blog post for an interview with SCYIO’s CEO

An old rant — One year old joins school

I was clearing out old documents from the house, and came across an old rant. A 10-year-old rant! The year was 1998 and I had started class XII. Getting admission to a good institute was my most important concern. One day, I saw an advertisement in the newspaper for admission to Indian Navy’s Naval College of Engineering, that prompted me to write a letter to the editor of the newspaper. I think that the newspaper was The Tribune. The newspaper never published my letter. For old times sake, here is the letter — in the original, unedited and untarnished.

One year old joins school

Surprised! Can this really be true? At least, the Indian Navy things so. According to the advertisement inviting applications for the Naval College of Engineering, which appeared in your paper dated 2nd May, 1998, the eligible candidates must have passed 10+2 (Class XII) and be born between 2nd December 1979 and 1st July 1982. A child born on 1st July 1982 would not be even 16 years old while appearing for 10+2 examination in 1998. Having studied for fourteen years (Nursery, Kindergarten, and 10+2) means that he/she joined school at the ripe old age of one year! And, needless to mention, he didn’t have the privilege of going to pre-nursery.

A child born on 1st July 1982 can give 10+2 exam in 1998 only under two circumstances, viz. (i) he/she is a child prodigy and skipped a few classes, or (ii) he was born earlier, but his birth certificate states otherwise. The former happens rarely; the latter, unfortunately, too frequently. The institutions likes the Indian Navy want two types of candidates &mdash; either prodigies or liars!

Parents get a birth certificate with the wrong date hoping to help the child: he can appear in entrance exams for more years (most entrance exams in India have an age limit on the candidates), he would retire later, etc. In doing so, they give a clear signal to the child &mdash; Do anything that will benefit you and don’t care about the moral and social implications. The child looks at his parents as role models and follows their advice. The result? The present scenario makes the answer obvious.

Institutions like the Indian Navy and many others are encouraging parents to officially lower their child’s age. And parents find the option too tempting to resist.

What is the correct age for a child to join school? Certainly not one or two years. I joined school when I was four years old. Currently, I am studying in 10+2 and will pass (in India, pass school means graduate from school) 10+2 next March. But, by next year, I won’t be able to join the Naval College of Engineering for no fault of mine except that my date of birth on records is the same as my actual date of birth. I am sure that there are others like me, who are suffering needlessly. In today’s highly competitive world, getting admission in a good college is very difficult, and these types of advertisements add insult to injury by making genuine students ineligible. I would like to ask all institutions who think that one year old can join school — whose fault is it anyways?

The icing on the cake is the slogan in the advertisement: “The Indian Navy is for those who wish to care for the traditional value system” The traditional value system!! What is this, if not a mockery of the Indian education system.

I checked the current requirements for the Indian Naval College. Candidates should be between 16 ½ to 19 ½ years as on 01 Jan on the year of commencement of the course. So, in the last ten years, the rules have changed. The Indian Navy realizes that one year old are too young to join school. But two year old are fair game. Sigh.