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29 January 2013 @ 01:07 pm
Conflicts of Interest  
Hmm... I'm a referee for a conference and have just received an email pointing me towards a very clear conflict of interest policy (work at the same institution as some author, co-author with someone in the last two years, currently working on a project with an author, etc., etc.,). The email then asked me to log into the conference web site and mark any of the submitted papers where I have a conflict of interest with one of the authors... which is all very well except the papers have all been anonymised for blind review so I frankly haven't the foggiest idea if I have a conflict of interest or not since I have no idea who the authors are.

I mean there are 54 papers listing Argumentation as a keyword alone and while I know a lot of people in my department work on Argumentation I'm not familiar enough with any of their work to be able to identify their papers from the title alone (and my enthusiasm for going through the PDF of every one and then playing guessing games with the list of references is low) and I very much doubt they are responsible for all 54 that have been submitted.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/88138.html.
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fredbassettfredbassett on January 29th, 2013 01:35 pm (UTC)
Email back and sharply point out you're not bloody telephathic! Idiots.
louisedennislouisedennis on January 29th, 2013 01:39 pm (UTC)
It must be said I'm assuming someone has probably already done this, given there appear to be about 350 senior members of the program committee and each of those will have appointed a number of junior people to help out, all of whom will have got the email this morning.
fredbassettfredbassett on January 29th, 2013 01:40 pm (UTC)
*g* I'd say this is a case of 'the more the merrier'.
louisedennislouisedennis on January 29th, 2013 01:51 pm (UTC)
I have just sent the following - not particularly sharp nor does it contain the words "bloody telepathic" tempting though that would be.

I'm a little confused over how to go about determining my conflicts of interest. For instance, there are several people in my department who work on Argumentation but I'm really not familiar enough with their work to be able to tell from the list of papers submitted with Argumentation as a keyword which may have been written by someone I work with, and with 54 papers submitted using that keyword it would take a long time to go through the PDF of each one looking for clues that it was written by someone from Liverpool. Is there some way of indicating conflicts of interest with individual authors and institutions, rather than attempting to deduce this information from the papers - especially given how many papers there are?
wellinghallwellinghall on January 29th, 2013 03:32 pm (UTC)
Yes, but they are probably telepathic enough to be able to work out your true thoughts ... ;-)
louisedennislouisedennis on January 29th, 2013 01:57 pm (UTC)
And it appears the answer is that the policy should have a rider "Unless its bloody obvious that one of these situations holds then its not a problem"

Conflicts is based on the paper information you have now, so just title and abstract.
If you think you do not have a conflict with any paper, this is fine.
I think this should be the default situation in a double blind review system.
fredbassettfredbassett on January 29th, 2013 02:01 pm (UTC)
They're bonkers! I think the bloody telepathic line is the least they deserve!
louisedennislouisedennis on January 29th, 2013 02:21 pm (UTC)
I have translated this as

Thanks! That makes it a lot clearer!

I feel a bit like that meme that was doing the rounds on Facebook with "What British People Say" in one column and "What they mean" in the next.
fredbassettfredbassett on January 29th, 2013 03:30 pm (UTC)
LOL, yes. A lawyer only has to say the words 'with the greatest of respect' to know they really mean, 'look, you absolute dewdrop on the end of a dog's dick..'
jhgowenjhgowen on January 29th, 2013 02:33 pm (UTC)
can't they do that themselves?
As they have the publication data including lists of authors, they can simply compare your affiliation to that of any particular paper they want you to review. Simples.
louisedennislouisedennis on January 29th, 2013 02:39 pm (UTC)
Re: can't they do that themselves?
Certainly at the institutional level one feels they ought to be able to do this. Identifying recent co-authors and project partners might be more difficult.