Blogger Deep Climate looks at another paper by the 2002 recipient of the American Statistical Association’s Founders award. This time it’s not funny, it’s just sad.
Here’s Wikipedia on simulated annealing:
By analogy with this physical process, each step of the SA algorithm replaces the current solution by a random “nearby” solution, chosen with a probability that depends on the difference between the corresponding function values and on a global parameter T (called the temperature), that is gradually decreased during the process. The dependency is such that the current solution changes almost randomly when T is large, but increasingly “downhill” as T goes to zero. The allowance for “uphill” moves saves the method from becoming stuck at local minima—which are the bane of greedier methods.
And here’s Wegman:
During each step of the algorithm, the variable that will eventually represent the minimum is replaced by a random solution that is chosen according to a temperature parameter, T. As the temperature of the system decreases, the probability of higher temperature values replacing the minimum decreases, but it is always non-zero. The decrease in probability ensures a gradual decrease in the value of the minimum. However, the non-zero stipulation allows for a higher value to replace the minimum. Though this may sound like a flaw in the algorithm, it makes simulated annealing very useful because it allows for global minimums to be found rather than local ones. If during the course of the implementation of the algorithm a certain location (local minimum) has a lower temperature than its neighbors yet much higher than the overall lowest temperature (global minimum), this non-zero probability stipulation will allow for the value of the minimum to back track in a sense and become unstuck from local minima.
Now I know why Wegman likes to plagiarize! The above passage does not appear to be plagiarized; instead it looks like Wegman read some material and rephrased it in his own words, adding error in the process. It reads like a junior high school book report: “Though this may sound like a flaw in the algorithm, it makes simulated annealing very useful . . .” And how about this: “this non-zero probability stipulation will allow for the value of the minimum to back track in a sense and become unstuck from local minima.” Huh?
It’s almost as if English is not Wegman’s first language, or as if he doesn’t know what he’s talking about and trying very very carefully not to make any mistakes. Or as if he didn’t write it at all . . . but that can’t be! His name is on the article (he’s the second author, behind the less-celebrated Yasmin Said), so I can only assume he has fully read the article and takes responsibility for its content.
The lesson here is: if you’re going to publish in an expensive “peer-reviewed” journal on something you know nothing about, you should do the following:
1. Plagiarize. If you try to write it in your own words, you may come across looking like a fool!
2. If you do plagiarize, don’t paste into Word. Use font-preserving software so that “2^n” doesn’t become “2n”.
3. Hope that nobody actually reads your article—if they do, they might notice the mistakes and the plagiarism. And that could make you look bad.
4. If all else fails, don’t apologize! A mixture of blaming others and stonewalling should suffice. Remember: you’re the victim here. Why are you being singled out all of a sudden. After all, everybody does it, right??
P.S. I recognize that intonation is difficult to perceive in typed speech. The four suggestions above are meant ironically. In reality, I think people should not plagiarize, should not pollute the scientific literature by writing about things they know nothing about, and should admit and apologize for their offenses.
P.P.S. I think this is much worse than the Bruno Frey case. First, I think it’s worse to copy others’ work without attribution than to copy one’s own work. (At least there’s no misattribution of credit.) Second, Frey’s papers were not bad. Arguably they were not as great as the journal reviewers thought—Frey seems to have been able to go pretty far based on good writing and novelty value of his topics and ideas—but they were real (if minor) contributions to the literature. In contrast, Wegman’s papers discussed here are not contributions are all. Where they are not actually wrong, they are empty.
Breaking the rules is bad, but breaking the rules and not coming up with anything helpful to anybody, that’s much worse.
P.S. John Mashey points me to this:
Your review will be published alongside other world-class contributions from leading researchers in the field. All WIREs article topics and authors are selected by an internationally renowned Editorial Board, and all content is rigorously peer reviewed by experts.
Despite the above paragraph appearing on the website of a reputable publisher, it appears to be false. I cannot imagine that the statement, “this non-zero probability stipulation will allow for the value of the minimum to back track in a sense and become unstuck from local minima” was rigorously peer reviewed by experts.
I’d loooove to see the record of who were the “experts” who reviewed for Wegman’s various contributions to that journal.