RE: [ontolog-forum] Research Illusion

John Sowa ...
> This is true of all kinds of learning from infancy to the most
> sophisticated scientific research.  One of my colleagues at IBM
> submitted a paper to a conference, and one of the reviewers
> rejected it with the comment "I never saw anybody do anything
> like that before."  Apparently, they wanted new research, but
> only if it fit the old paradigms.
> Eventually, the author managed to get the paper accepted by
> different reviewers, and the paper became a minor classic of
> its kind.  This is just one of many examples of "reviewer roulette",
> which has plagued every branch of science and engineering.  For
> the humanities, the problem is even worse because the criteria
> for testing ideas by experiment are much harder to apply.
> The same kinds of prejudices plague entire fields, not just
> individual reviewers.  During the 1970s and '80s, another colleague
> at IBM, Fred Jelinek, was the manager of a group that used statistics
> to analyze natural languages.  In those days, the amount of data
> they had to process was so large that they swamped a large IBM
> mainframe.  So they had to run their programs at 3 o'clock in
> the morning, when they could get enough computing power.

This thread has been thought provoking.
It seems that another inescapable fact is that we are social creatures and that research, consensus and truth are social processes. Being the innovator is genuinely risky in terms of one's social reputation, and hence everything that goes with it: money, sex, power. For every crank turned genius, there are many, many cranks who didn't make it; and only some of the cranks will genuinely deserve that status.

Web technology is already automating some of those social processes, and making them wider, more inclusive, with larger groups driving the fashions. IMO, it is a mistake to believe that automation will allow us to be 'right' rather than just tell stories about our research and our world that more people enjoy. Telling a new story, and teaching people how to enjoy it, is hard work, and involves a wide range of skills.


Received on Sunday, 10 May 2009 16:14:11 UTC