About Kai von Fintel

I'm a professor of linguistics at MIT. I work on meaning. I am also Associate Dean of MIT's School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. I have a wife, two kids, two cats, and a dog. I live in an intentional community (Mosaic Commons Cohousing) in Berlin, Massachusetts. I am a runner. I like soccer, a lot. I was born on a cold winter’s night in a small village on the Lüneburg Heath in Northern Germany.

Rich Meta-Data in S&P's PDFs

We just rolled out a major upgrade to the PDFs published in our journal Semantics and Pragmatics. We already had extensive hyper-linking in the articles and in the bibliographies. Now, our PDFs sport rich meta-data that will make it easier for all kinds of services to recognize crucial information about our articles. The meta-data are embedded in the PDF but not visible to the naked eye. You can inspect them by probing into the document properties with Adobe Reader or some other tool. But the main purpose is for automated access by search engines and bibliographic software. If you drag one of our PDFs into a database maintained by Papers, for example, the information about the article will automatically populate the fields in the database, with no need for manual filling in of fields. Similarly, if you use JabRef to maintain a BibTeX database, you can import our PDFs via “Import > XMP-annotated PDF” and have all the BibTeX fields filled in automatically.

Behind the scenes, we are using a customized version of the hyperxmp package to embed XMP meta-data in a number of standardized formats (Dublin Core, PRISM, BibTeXmp).

We are in the forefront of scientific journals in implementing these meta-data standards. To our knowledge only the Nature Publishing Group and Elsevier are also consistently providing rich meta-data in their PDFs. Certainly, none of the other journals in our field have moved to these standards. The upshot for S&P authors is that their work is made even more accessible and useful for readers, in a way that is far ahead of competing journals.

[We thank Uli Sauerland for asking us whether our PDFs could embed bibliographic information in addition to us making BibTeX entry information conveniently available from the online abstracts at the S&P site.]

Time to Decision

We now have three major articles published in S&P and one commentary. We have two articles forthcoming after very minor revisions. We have six articles where we are waiting for major revisions. We have four articles under current review.

We thought we would share our current statistics about time to decision. The chart below displays the data for first submissions, resubmissions, and for the few submissions that we rejected out of hand without sending them out for review. Our average (and median) time to a first decision is 53 days. The quality of our reviews tends to be very high, if we may say so. We think that we offer our authors first class service and we hope for many more submissions after the summer writing season.


Two Articles Published

We haven’t posted to the editors blog in quite a while. We’ll have a fuller report about the journal’s first year soon. But since today we published a new article, let us take this opportunity to note the first two articles published in S&P:

Barker, Chris & Chung-chieh Shan. 2008. Donkey anaphora is in-scope binding. Semantics and Pragmatics 1. 1:1—46. doi:10.3765/sp.1.1.

Elbourne, Paul. 2009. Bishop sentences and donkey cataphora: A response to Barker and Shan. Semantics and Pragmatics 2. 1:1—7. doi:10.3765/sp.2.1.

Read and enjoy! And please submit your work to S&P. You’ll be amazed at the level of service we provide to our authors.

Harvard adopts OA mandate

Harvard’s faculty last night voted to adopt the open access mandate that was promoted by S&P friend Stuart Shieber:

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences of Harvard University is committed to disseminating the fruits of its research and scholarship as widely as possible. In keeping with that commitment, the Faculty adopts the following policy: Each Faculty member grants to the President and Fellows of Harvard College permission to make available his or her scholarly articles and to exercise the copyright in those articles. In legal terms, the permission granted by each Faculty member is a nonexclusive, irrevocable, paid-up, worldwide license to exercise any and all rights under copyright relating to each of his or her scholarly articles, in any medium, and to authorize others to do the same, provided that the articles are not sold for a profit. The policy will apply to all scholarly articles written while the person is a member of the Faculty except for any articles completed before the adoption of this policy and any articles for which the Faculty member entered into an incompatible licensing or assignment agreement before the adoption of this policy. The Dean or the Dean’s designate will waive application of the policy for a particular article upon written request by a Faculty member explaining the need.

To assist the University in distributing the articles, each Faculty member will provide an electronic copy of the final version of the article at no charge to the appropriate representative of the Provost’s Office in an appropriate format (such as PDF) specified by the Provost’s Office. The Provost’s Office may make the article available to the public in an open-access repository.

The Office of the Dean will be responsible for interpreting this policy, resolving disputes concerning its interpretation and application, and recommending changes to the Faculty from time to time. The policy will be reviewed after three years and a report presented to the Faculty.

There was a NY Times article on this, and here, here, and here is some of Peter Suber’s coverage.

Congratulations Harvard (and Stu)!

Biolinguistics: A New Open-Access (?) Journal in Linguistics

[via Peter Suber]

Biolinguistics is an open access (?) journal, edited by Cedric Boeckx (Harvard University) and Kleanthes K. Grohmann (University of Cyprus). The inaugural issue includes articles by Noam Chomsky and others.

(Peter Suber correctly reports that the journal’s about pages state that there is delayed open access, but I wonder whether that is a simple error, since it is also stated that all content is free after a simple free registration. Note also that the journal requires authors to sign over their copyright. In any case, more free peer-reviewed content in linguistics is a good thing, even if there are some extra hoops involved.)

Review or Perish?

In a letter to Science, William F. Perrin, a past editor of Marine Mammal Science and a present associate editor of the Journal of Mammalogy writes:

I have had great difficulty in lining up reviewers. Sometimes it takes 8 or 10 tries to find someone who will agree to review a paper. The typical excuse is “I’m too busy.”

First I try the people who have published the most relevant and recent papers on the topic in question. Then I move down the range of choices. The temptation, and sometimes the need, is to turn to potential reviewers in less-related fields or those who are not so “busy” (i.e., are not producing much themselves). This inevitably leads to less-knowledgeable reviewers and often reviews of lesser quality, which of course complicates the editor’s job and sometimes enrages the authors.

If an average acceptance rate of 50% is assumed, and if each paper needs at least two reviews, then each paper published represents at least four reviews. Following this logic, if you publish three or four papers a year, you should be doing at least 12 to 16 reviews. Anything less means that you are sloughing off the work to others who are perhaps less knowledgeable and capable than you in your specialty, and you should not be upset when someone reviewing a paper of yours “doesn’t have a clue.”

Doing a fair share of peer reviews should be a recognized and expected part of the job for scientific professionals; it should be written into the job descriptions of salaried scientists and be considered in evaluating junior faculty for tenure. The caution should be “Publish and review, or perish.”

The average of published papers in semantics and pragmatics may be closer to 2 or 3 a year. So, this calculation would mean 8 to 12 reviews per year. Are you doing that many?

We here at S&P have promised our editorial board members not to expect more than 2 reviews each year (although we maybe should be getting nervous about the load of manuscripts that we’re receiving). Assuming that they review for other journals as well, that probably does add up to the “ideal” workload for reviewing.

ISSN and DOI, Ahoy!

Our journal now has an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN), assigned by the Library of Congress (by their National Serials Data Program):

ISSN: 1937-8912

At the same time, we are now members of CrossRef and have been assigned a DOI (digital object identifier) prefix:

doi: 10.3765

The articles in our inaugural issue will now permanently be available via doi:10.3765/sp.0.1 and doi:10.3765/sp.0.2. If on the back-end the articles are moved around, these permanent identifiers will be unchanged and simply point to the new location of the articles. So, everyone should link to these articles (and all others that have a DOI, which is increasingly every scientific article published nowadays) via their DOI.

Submissions rolling in …

In the first two weeks after our grand opening we have already received three submissions, which are now under review (in fact, two reviewers have already reported back — with what is quite astonishing speed). We have also fielded some inquiries about possible submissions that we judged to be somewhat outside the scope of our journal.

As the year’s end is coming and many academics are free of teaching for a few weeks and thus get some time to work on putting the finishing touches on their newest research articles, we hope that you are all seriously considering S&P as your venue for publication. You will get prompt attention from first-class peer reviewers, and if your paper is accepted, it will quickly be copy-edited and typeset to our exacting standards, and then it will immediately be available to everyone in the field anywhere in the world without any cost (to anyone other than our institutional supporters, the LSA, MIT, and the University of Texas).