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Re: [AUDITORY] arXiv web of trust

Bravo, Alain!  Thank you for saving me from crafting a longer post.  I agree , wholeheartedly, with your take on the value of peer review.  Your notion that the advantages of peer review are orthogonal to the business models of the journals, is, as I see it, both right on target and a crucial point.  I place little value, both as an author and a reader, in "pre-prints." 

Brian Katz also captured aspects of my point of view quite well: "
[A] Pre-print is an unreviewed un-published work, only submitted elsewhere for consideration. It has no more reference value than a blog, and maybe should be re-termed as such. Any results are therefore to be taken with a grain of salt, as with many conference papers which lack any significant review process."  If one wishes to establish "primacy," then give talks and interact with colleagues.  Our field is not so large that, at least in my experience, getting scooped is an issue.  I understand that others may have had different experience but, across my entire career, not once has that been an problem (perhaps, because no one else was interested in what I was doing 🙂).

Based on my experience reading pre-prints, they are the last format to which I would direct students.  That's because, often, I have found them to be sophisticated drafts of manuscripts that contain all manner of errors and questionable conclusions.  As I see it, they are not a valuable resource for one who is attempting to learn about the field and develop a highly-informed, integrated set of knowledge.  I view pre-prints as another contributor to what I see as a general erosion of scientific rigor.  I understand and accept that many might disagree.

As regular readers of this list know, I rarely post responses.  In this case, I felt compelled to contribute because of what I perceive to be the importance of the topic.


Leslie R. Bernstein, Ph.D. | Professor Emeritus
Depts. of Neuroscience and Surgery (Otolaryngology) | UConn School of Medicine
263 Farmington Avenue, Farmington, CT 06030-3401
Office: 860.679.4622 | Fax: 860.679.2495

On 5/24/2023 4:26 AM, Alain de Cheveigne wrote:
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Hi Jonathan, all,

Here's a different perspective.

First of all, the issue of peer review should be distinguished from that of publishers shaving the wool off our backs (more below).

Peer review offers functions that we miss out on in the preprint model. Weeding out junk is one, improving papers (and the ideas in them) is another. A third is reducing the bulk of things to read.

The last might seem counterintuitive: surely, more is better?  The thing is, we have limited time and cognitive bandwidth. Lack of time is the major obstacle to keeping abreast, and lack of time of the potential audience is what prevents our ideas having an impact. You painstakingly work to solve a major problem in the field, write it up carefully, and no one notices because attention is carried away by the tweet cycle.

The review/journal model helps in several ways. First, by prioritizing things to read (as an alternative to the random - or otherwise biased - selection induced by lack of time).  Second, by improving the readability of the papers: more readable means less time per paper means more attention for other papers - including possibly yours. Third, by organizing - however imperfectly - the field.

For example, you can (or could) keep abreast of a topic in acoustics by scanning JASA and a few other journals. With the preprint/twitter model the 'field' risks being shattered into micro-fields, bubbles, or cliques.

My experience of the review process is - as everyone's - mixed.  I remember intense frustration at the reviewer's dumbness, and despair at ever getting published. I also remember what I learned in the process.  Almost invariably, my papers were improved by orders of magnitude (not just incrementally).

I also spend a lot of time reviewing. I find it a painful process, as it involves reading (I'm a bit dyslexic), and trying to understand what is written and - to be helpful to the author - what the author had in mind and how he/she could better formulate it to get the message across, and avoid wasting the time of - hopefully - countless readers. It does involve weeding out some junk too.

Science is not just about making new discoveries or coming up with radically new ideas. These are few and far between. Rather, it's a slow process of building on other people's ideas, digesting, tearing down, clearing the rubble, and building some more. The review process makes the edifice more likely to stand. Journals play an important role in this accumulation, even if most content is antiquated and boring. It's a miracle that some journals have done this over decades, even centuries.

Which brings back to the issue of money, impact factors, and careers.  Lots to say about that, mostly depressing, but mainly orthogonal from the peer-review issue.


On 23 May 2023, at 13:54, Jonathan Z Simon <jzsimon@xxxxxxx> wrote:


In this context I would avoid the term “publishing”, since that has such a different meaning for so many people, but I personally do take advantage of posting preprints on a public server (like arXiv) almost every chance I get.

Preprints (preprint = a fully written paper that is not (yet) published) have been useful for many decades, originally in physics, as a way of getting one's research results out in a timely manner. Other key benefits are that it establishes primacy of the research findings, that it is citable in other researchers' papers, and that it can be promoted by social media such as this listserve (more below on this). But the biggest benefit is typically getting the paper out into the world for others to learn from, without having to wait based on the whims of publishers and individual reviewers. If most of your published papers get accepted eventually, and the most important findings don’t get cut in the review process, then preprints are something you should definitely consider. Reviewers often make published papers better, but maybe not so much better that it’s worth waiting many months for others to see your results.

arXiv is the oldest website for posting preprints, and if its Audio and Speech section is active, that might be a good place to post your preprints. But there may be other options for you. As an auditory neuroscientist I typically use bioRxiv (e.g., "Changes in Cortical Directional Connectivity during Difficult Listening in Younger and Older Adults” <https://urldefense.com/v3/__https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2023.05.19.541500__;!!Cn_UX_p3!kFiRWQEegTNQdy1Ansa9h3JyDYE11HFCa1dc0ivav-YtNjO5e3j_ubj8qWBH74n7MQLs_tQdqS60bkntxsk1VxGmQSHzdpo$ >), but I also use PsyArXiv if the topic is more perceptual than neural (e.g., “Attention Mobilization as a Modulator of Listening Effort: Evidence from Pupillometry” <https://urldefense.com/v3/__https://psyarxiv.com/u5xw2__;!!Cn_UX_p3!kFiRWQEegTNQdy1Ansa9h3JyDYE11HFCa1dc0ivav-YtNjO5e3j_ubj8qWBH74n7MQLs_tQdqS60bkntxsk1VxGmdmzYTxc$ >). [See what I mean about promoting your research on social media?]

I’m sure others have opinions too.


On May 22, 2023, at 6:45 PM, Matt Flax <flatmax@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

Is anyone publishing on arXiv at the moment ? It seems that to publish there they rely on a web of trust.

There is an Audio and Speech section of arXiv which would suit our community.


Jonathan Z. Simon (he/him)
University of Maryland
Dept. of Electrical & Computer Engineering / Dept. of Biology / Institute for Systems Research
8223 Paint Branch Dr.
College Park, MD 20742 USA
Office: 1-301-405-3645, Lab: 1-301-405-9604, Fax: 1-301-314-9281

Leslie R. Bernstein, Ph.D. | Professor Emeritus
Depts. of Neuroscience and Surgery (Otolaryngology) | UConn School of Medicine
263 Farmington Avenue, Farmington, CT 06030-3401
Office: 860.679.4622 | Fax: 860.679.2495