kitchen table math, the sequel: Bonnie on peer review and textbooks in computer science

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Bonnie on peer review and textbooks in computer science

Bonnie writes:
Peer review in computer science is very weird, because unlike other fields, we mainly publish in conferences rather than journals. It is a huge issue at tenure time because tenure committees assume that conference publications are meaningless - and they are in most fields - but not in computer science. Most of our conferences have acceptance rates of around 25%, and the top conferences are below 10%. That is where the peer review is happening in our field.

But that is research peer review, and I thought we were talking about textbooks. In CS, there are textbooks for certain "standard" courses - intro to programming, databases, operating systems, theory of computation, and a few others. The only real churn that I see is in the intro to programming area, because every time a new programming language hits the scene, you get 10 new books doing CS 1 and 2 in that langauge. In databases and operating systems, the same 3 or 4 authors have dominated for 20 years, issuing edition after edition of their book. So in reality, professors adopt the textbook, which isn't purchased or read by most of the class anyway, and then add lots of their own material. For courses that have no reasonable textbook - for example, everyone is adding courses on Android programming right now - we simply have the students buy a book aimed at professional developers, or cobble together notes on our own.
And here is Allison on peer review in mathematics.

1 comment:

Catherine Johnson said...

I should add that although I want peer review to be involved as an important element of K-12 curriculum, I'm aware that peer review also has a number of problems....

We encountered the limitations of peer review several years ago when we discovered that a number of autism researchers were being defunded.

That's another story; I no longer remember it well enough to get into it here.

I bring it up mostly because I accidentally stumbled upon a critique of peer review while searching for a study on "optimistic evaluation" and 5-HT --- !