29 April, 2009
24 April, 2009
Last week I participated in Faraday Discussion 142: Cold and Ultracold Molecules, presenting a poster there. For those of you who don't know, what Faraday Discussions are I will describe it in two words.
The conference is organized by the Royal Society of Chemistry, it has a centennial history and takes place a few times a year nowadays. This time it was at Durham University, UK. Faraday Discussions are not "real conferences" with long plenary talks and short student's contributions. Actually, they are nothing but... discussions.
People submit their abstracts well ahead of time, about one year before the conference. The best abstracts are selected for oral presentations and the lucky guys are asked to submit full-length papers about their work. Then, after the peer-review process, preprints are sent to all participants, who are expected to read them carefully before coming to the place.
Talks at the discussions are limited by only 5 minutes - it should be just a "reminder" to people, who already read the preprints. This rule is quite strict: there is a special guy sitting next to traffic lights, which are green when you start a presentation. After four minutes the lights are switched to yellow, and they turn out to be red after five minutes. At this point you are interrupted at half a sentence - no other way around.
Presentations are scheduled in such a way that they are more or less about the same subject within a single session. So, a few five-minutes talks are given one after another. Then the discussion begins - the most interesting part, taking about one hour. People ask a lot questions, both technical and general ones, but "comments" are also possible. The latter are short presentations, also restricted by the traffic lights, which are relevant to the main contributions. For instance, a theorist, who came up with some explanation after having read the experimental preprint, can briefly describe his idea and show some slides with results.
All questions, answers and comments (along with the papers themselves) are then collected and published a few months later as a volume of Faraday Discussions, a journal having quite a good impact factor, about 5.0 these days.
I find this kind of format to be much more efficient, than usual conferences, where people may have no questions simply because they haven't got the idea of the work during the talk.
17 April, 2009
Many years ago, the arXive was successfully working without any peer-review. But at some point, they started to get a lot of really odd submissions from science freaks, about new "theories of everything", violation of general relativity theory and other things of this sort.
Therefore, an "endorsement" mechanism was introduced, so anyone who submitted a few papers to archive can recommend a preprint of a new guy to be accepted. This is not a true peer-review, the endorser is only expected to check whether the preprint is about science in general, like it doesn't pretend to prove how stupid Einstein was. Not all the archive sections require endorsement - I guess, only fundamental topics, like high-energy physics do.
I'm an endorser for the atomic physics and chemical physics sections, which is quite useless, since no endorsement is needed there. However, today I've got the first "can you endorse me, please?" kind of message, and, yes, this is one from a science freak. I don't know what to do, I must confess. :-)