Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Evaluation of Dr. *** work and research. For getting tenure

It often happens that an Academic is asked to assess his/her peer work. This below is an example of one letter that I made recently. However, in boldface I put comments in a less traditional language that I think would give more insight with respect to the letter I actually wrote both to people who judge the researcher. Here you find it below:

The short answer to your Institution request is: there is no doubt that Dr. *** deserves to get his/her tenured position, s/he is one of the best in the world in what s/he does.

C: The short answer is: this man/woman is damned good. S/he is far above the average and you would be stupid not to keep him/her.

The long assessment is easy too. My own research work intersects very much with Dr. ***'s one. So I came to know and follow her/his production since ten years ago. Her/His paper are among those I cited more frequently in my recent research and s/he is one of the two or three researchers younger than me that I believe it is necessary to follow when working on hydrological modelling.

C: I do not need to read her/his papers. I already read and frequently cited her/him. So: s/he is good. S/he regularly publish just on the best journals. S/he has a rate of citation slightly than mine. So, maybe s/he is better than me. Stop. 

S/he also publish regularly with some of the best researchers in the field and this does not usually happen to everyone.

C: S/he is well connected. The group s/he frequents is extremely good but tends to be self-referential. This exposes her/him to the threat to follow the main stream (which helps in publishing) and not be a paradigms breaker (which could be hard to sustain). However, if s/he is smart, as I believe, s/he will avoid the pitfalls of situation.

Finally her/his DUPER environment is a milestone in recent literature.

C: Her/his framework is damned good. It is one of the main contenders of mine. If I would be a super rampant guy, I would try to obstacle it. But I am a professor (sigh).

It happens, obviously, that I disagree on some details of her/his research, but this is matter of normal dialectics between peers.

C: S/he made some choices different from mine and sustains them with some statements that I judge debatable. But respect to the shit I see around there is by far no competition. 

From the recent papers s/he chose for evaluation, I could see that s/he also enlarged her/his view on using Bayesian techniques for estimating model’s parameters.

C: S/he is able to understand where the fashionable stuff is. This attitude does not produce science by itself but for sure is one of the characteristics that good Academics must have at least a bit (sometimes to avoid to follow fashionable stuff).

His/Her approach is sophisticate and requires certainly some deepening from myself, but I could appreciate its novelty.

C: The last paper is really technical and if s/he insists too much in this direction s/he can fall into hydrological matematistry

Whilst her/his initial production reflects also %%%% view of the matter, it is quite clear now what is Dr. *** own contribution and evolution.

C: Her/his former and influential boss quite determined her/his initial research, but s/he seems having coming out from her/his boss old fashionable approach, which was not up-to-date and could have brought her/him to produce crappy stuff. Which was not. 

To summarise, when s/he writes: "My research areas in catchment modelling can be broadly classified as: (1) the development of flexible models,which provide the building blocks for the construction of models, (2) the formulation of guidelines for model development, and (3) the use of models to interpret catchment behaviour and to produce reliable predictions. Through these research areas I have contributed to important developments in hydrological sciences in the past years, such as the use of models for hypothesis testing, the incorporation of experimental knowledge inthe modelling process, and the understanding of large scale hydrological processes and their controls.”, s/he give an image of her/himself that I fully share and think is appropriate.

C: S/he knows what s/he is and does. S/he is ready for his role. 

S/he individuates three areas of progress for his research: a) Flexible models development; b) Theory of (hydrological) models developments; c) Understanding and prediction of catchment behavior.

C: This intersects with my activities, that’s why I reformulated the name of her/his second area of interest. My, I think, is more appropriate. 

Recently there was, among many colleagues, the idea that the topics of surface hydrology were mature and that research has to move to hybrid fields like socio-hydrology, eco-hydrology (with an accent to ecology more than hydrology), ecosystem services and so on.

C: Most of colleagues, even gifted ones, tends to give for granted was is actually not (at all).

With respect to these new, certainly exciting directions, the focus of Dr. *** seems quite traditional. However, I fully approve it. The kind of research s/he is pursuing is fundamental and necessary after years of blown dilettantism that has relevant consequences in research and practice.

C: With respect to these topics most colleagues are either wrong or superficial. (Someone has to use these occasion to push out his frustration). 

Conclusions and extension obtained from ill-conceived concepts, improperly used models, and lack of hypothesis testing brings to wrong interpretations of hydrological facts and can have negative consequences on engineering applications and cause the choice of wrong policies.

C: They use wrong findings based on misconceptions and move to new subfields with wrong information. GIGO

Dr. *** work is important and its importance is going to become more and more clear in the next years. Hopefully just a few model infrastructures will emerge from the present fragmentation, and I believe the one from the evolving work of Dr. *** will be in the group.

C: Just a few framework will survive when people finally will understand the limits of hydrological dilettantism. Possibly the work of this researcher will survive and for sure, it will do for the next decade.

Probably, If I would be her/him, I would try to broaden a little the perspective including, besides the hydrologic response, the whole set of hydrological processes that concern catchments’ budget more seriously, and, in particular, evapotranspiration that, in some environments covers even sixty per cent of the water budget.

C: Engineers, even some ecohydrologists, are obsessed with discharges. These are just a part of the game. Future frameworks have to play the full game.

I would also devote some attention to the approach with travel time distributions which could open new perspectives in modeling of nutrients and pollutants, a field which Dr. *** already came across.

C: S/he forget some fundamental aspects concerning her/his own area of interest. S/he should not.

Finally, I have no doubt that Dr. *** will continue to improve and bring great contributions to your Institution.

C: I criticize her/him as I do with those I really like. S/he is a good person. Everybody can work with her/him and have benefits. They know that they want to keep her/him and I appreciate it. This will made her/him more free and more brave.

P.S. - They keep him/her

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