letters to the editor
even science Would Benefit from auctions
In “dEsigning thE Perfect Auction” (Aug. 2008), Hal R. Varian
noted that such auctions have
many practical and obvious applications, including in Web
advertising, cooperative robotics, digital business ecosystems, digital preservation, and network management.
Auctions, by means of complementary
community currencies, can also radically shift the way we conceive scientific cooperation. As we advocated in
our paper “Selecting Scientific Papers
for Publication via Citation Auctions”
(IEEE Intelligent Systems, Nov./Dec.
2007), replacing peer review with an
auction-based approach would benefit
science in general. The better a submitted paper, the more complementary
scientific currency its author(s) would
likely bid to have it published. If the bid
would truly reflect the paper’s quality,
the author(s) would be rewarded in this
new scientific currency; otherwise, the
author(s) would lose the currency.
For all scientists, citations are a form
of currency available worldwide, unlike
the legal national currencies, which are
scarce, especially in the third world.
Auctions using citations as currency
(“citation auctions”) would encourage
scientists to better control the quality
of their submissions, since those who
are careless risk being dropped from
the system. Scientists would also likely
be more motivated to prepare worthwhile talks concerning their accepted
papers and invite discussion of their
results by their peers. Scientists would
also likely focus on fewer papers and
market them better. Citation auctions
could thus greatly improve scientific
research, helping it shift from peer review as the reigning selection method
toward a continuously improving process of selection based on auctions.
Calculating the value of a work of art
or historical document is clearly difficult, and projecting that value into the
future is even more difficult. The same
holds when trying to calculate the current and possible future value of a scientific work. In a sort of back-to-basics
movement, like science in the 18th and
19th centuries, that calculation could
now be updated through citation auctions. Peer review would continue,
though in a more proper place in the
scientific production chain—before
selection for publication—rather than
as the sole selection step.
This distributed-algorithmic mechanism would provide an interesting
theoretical framework for incorporating incentives into algorithmic design, with bidding using an uncertain
valuation of a work’s quality, senior
scientists helping their younger counterparts enter the scientific system, the
marketing of scientific work through
recommender systems, the avoidance
of citation inflation, the creation of
banks of citations, and improved auction mechanisms.
Josep L. de la Rosa and
Boleslaw K. szymanski, Troy, NY
not only in the u.s.a.
We all know about the internationalization of computer applications, making
them easily translatable into a variety
of languages, dialects, and currencies.
But what about the internationalization of the editorial content of
The recent redesign (beginning July
2008) prompts me to suggest another
change to address something that has
been niggling at me for years.
Communications articles often seem to assume that all readers are in the U.S.
An example is the otherwise excellent
“Envisioning the Future of Computing
Research” by Ed Lazowska (Aug. 2008)
in which Lazowska referred to such
institutions as “the National Science
Foundation” and “the National Academy of Engineering.” A couple of tweaks
by an editor would have turned it into
“the U.S. National Science Foundation”
and “the U.S. National Academy of Engineering,” acknowledging that not all
readers think of these bodies as their
own national institutions. Lazowska
also invited participation in the Computing Community Consortium, which
is funded by the U.S. NSF, all of whose
current council members appear to be
based in the U.S. It would be useful to
know whether the invitation extends to
all ACM members or just to those in the
Communications content would allow all readers to
quickly evaluate its articles for personal relevance—yet another benefit from
the magazine’s redesign.
Jamie andrews, london, ontario, Canada
moaning about the Dearth
of native talent
I must take issue with Eric Roberts’s
straw-man argument in his “
Counterpoint” in the “Viewpoint” “Technology
Curriculum for the Early 21st Century”
(July 2008). In the real world, Microsoft might hire a candidate from Bangalore, then wait for more candidates
from Bangalore, even while whining
that there are no qualified candidates
in the U.S.
All companies look to control costs,
especially fixed ones, even at the expense of short-term return, since, projecting into the future, the marginal
return is less likely to stay positive for
more highly compensated employees.
The desire to control fixed costs also
contributes to demand for consultant
positions, as they are eliminated more
I know from personal experience
how different reality is from the picture
Roberts painted. I have no problem
with companies trying to find the low-est-cost qualified labor but am disgusted by disingenuous moaning about the
dearth of native talent.
Wayne Warren, San Antonio, TX
a message even in
I was introduced to Donald E. Knuth’s
masterwork The Art of Computer Programming in the late 1980s upon my arrival at college, and while I never fully
mastered it, I found it to be a handy
tool for accomplishing things that just
weren’t possible on the PC-based word