This post continues our series on up-and-coming PL researchers who are about to embark on independent research careers. This week, we feature Bill Harris, who will start as an assistant professor at Georgia Tech in Fall 2014. Continue reading
Monthly Archives: August 2014
Recently I wrote a document for my students giving them advice on reviewing scientific papers, particularly those in programming languages. John Regehr recently blogged about reviewing papers efficiently (and Shriram Krishnamurthi before him), and it reminded me that I had this document, so I decided I would post it here, following up on my recent post on the importance of peer review. I hope that students and those interested in peer reviewing will find it useful.
The ideas in this post come from my experiences as a journal reviewer and editor, and as a program committee member and Chair. I outline how I believe that papers should be judged, and how to write a review to express that judgment. Judgments should involve usefulness/appeal, novelty, correctness, and exposition. Reviews should aim to be self-contained, clearly expressing support for their recommendation; constructive, providing feedback for improving the work; and respectful of the authors who put a lot of time into their research. In general, think of the kind of review you’d like to receive, and act accordingly.
Scientific results intersect with all aspects of the modern world, and they underpin many important decisions made at the level of governments, corporations, and individuals. When you read about a scientific result—like the correlation of a particular gene’s mutation with a certain disease, or that it’s better for children to engage in unstructured play rather than structured learning at early ages—why should you believe it?
If you were an expert, you might be able to (with time) capably judge the work itself. But what if you are a non-expert, which is increasingly likely as branches of study become hyper-specialized? In this case, you are left to trust the scientific process, i.e., the way in which scientific work is judged to be true and important. At the heart of this process is peer review.
In this post I describe elements of the peer review process we use in scientific research about programming languages.
In response to my previous post defining memory safety (for C), one commenter suggested it would be nice to have a post explaining type safety. Type safety is pretty well understood, but it’s still not something you can easily pin down. In particular, when someone says, “Java is a type-safe language,” what do they mean, exactly? Are all type-safe languages “the same” in some way? What is type safety getting you, for particular languages, and in general?
In fact, what type safety means depends on language type system’s definition. In the simplest case, type safety ensures that program behaviors are well defined. More generally, as I discuss in this post, a language’s type system can be a powerful tool for reasoning about the correctness and security of its programs, and as such the development of novel type systems is a rich area of research.