Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Expectations; morals

1. I am making a small hostage to fortune here by stating that I am really looking forward to starting Logic Programming this afternoon. I enjoyed the logic I did over the summer, and Prolog is something I've been vaguely interested in for a while. However, everyone in the department speaks of logic in fearful tones so it may turn out that I'm being naive.

2. Looking instead to the past, this spring I wrote an anonymous reader's report for a publisher on a book which I felt had interesting potential but needed a lot of work. I found it extra difficult because I have respect for the work of this academic, had heard this book was in the pipeline, and had looked forward to reading it -- which perhaps made it more of a disappointment to me than if I had come to it with a blank slate. Now I have just had an e-mail from a different publisher asking me to write an anonymous reader's report for a book with the same title. The author is not given, but the abstract makes it clear to me that it's the same book. So either the first publisher rejected the book, or asked for the changes I thought were necessary and the author refused to make them. I'm going to e-mail to say that I have already written on the book and therefore think I'm not the right person to do so again. Whether or not it's been altered, I think the book deserves a new reader at this stage. It's a moral question for me whether I should just refuse without giving reasons. Interestingly my housemate feels that my moral duty lies in a different direction, towards the libraries which would have to buy this book, the librarians who would have to process and shelve it, the academics who would have to read it, the students who would have to learn to read it critically. But I can't help feeling just how big a thing a book is to write, and what a personal thing it is for the author -- not to mention that this author has always been kind to me. On the plus side, this book is not a start-of-career work, it's an end-of-career thing by a retired or near-retired academic of serious standing. And I like to think that probably the first publisher commissioned two readers' reports.

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