I just took over the editorship of THE REASONER from Jon Williamson who started it ten years ago. I’m very excited about this, and this is my first editorial. Read the whole issue at http://thereasoner.org
Reasoning is naturally multi-disciplinary, inter-disciplinary, inter-sectoral. While those tend to appear as buzzwords in the narrative of funding agencies in Europe and elsewhere, reality’s bitterly different. Reasoners struggle a lot when the workings of academia demand comparison with more focussed areas, both in the Natural and the Social sciences. At that moment, our strength is likely to turn into our weakness. Community building and its consolidation are therefore no less than vital to us.
We feed on ideas, results, and techniques developed in neighbouring fields. There’s no lack of success stories to be told.
The Journal of Logic and Computation witnesses the merging of several threads which now coexist indistinguishably under that very heading. Interactive Epistemology is the term preferred by many game theorists who are more keen to mention succinctly what they do, rather than compiling a long list of theories or disciplines which contribute to their goal. Computational Social Choice is a heading that really speaks for itself. Those are the very first names that come to mind from a logical point of view. Many equally bright success stories could be readily mentioned from alternative points of view. Reasoning thrives in a large enough and diverse enough scientific community. By the way, make sure you join us at the Center for Logic, Language, and Cognition in Torino for the Fifth Reasoning Club on 18-19 May 2017.
There is a second, more subtle, role for a strong reasoning community, and it has to do with the great challenge of making our work relevant outside the academia. There are currently great raised by data intensive methodologies in the biomedical sciences, in machine learning and algorithmic governance. Those are mostly reasoning challenges with a tremendous impact in policy-making. Think of the enormous amount of delicate work needed for understanding and communicating scientific uncertainties related to climate change, natural disasters and financial risks. Or think of the methodological subtleties of Evidence-Based Medicine especially when it is asked to inform something as delicate and complex as health care policy. Thanks to Michael Wilde’s columns, readers of The Reasoner have been reading about this fascinating
topic for quite some time.
This brings me to a very important point. To keep up the great work Jon Williamson, the founding Editor of this gazette, and his collaborators have been doing for the past ten years, we need your help. So please do contribute to The Reasoner and help us serving the community of reasoners. There are many ways to do it, some of which are new and require a brief introduction.
The reasoner speculates
In principle, the multi-disciplinary, inter-disciplinary, inter-sectoral nature of reasoning means that we get a chance to play in everyone’s backyard. In practice things turn out to be different.
We are all under a tremendous pressure to publish the largest number of papers in the highest quality journals. This is what one’s got to do to get a job after the PhD, then to turn it into a permanent position, then to get a major grant. Those who can, adapt to this pressure, which then becomes normal. So normal one just keeps being under pressure because it’s been like this for so long one doesn’t even notice any more – why on earth should one not aim at the greatest number of least publishable units in the best possible journals? However, striving for the efficient frontier means that, in practice, we don’t really play in any backyard at all.
One situation in which this pressure is temporarily lifted is conference dinners. Sometimes with the help of a couple of drinks, speculation kicks in. And under favourable conditions, it may turn into the most interesting part of the workshop. Not that the talks aren’t good – they usually are. But there’s something different going on in those chats, which is facilitated by not talking on slides, and not being scheduled. It’s free range reasoning going on in the conference backyard. The Reasoner Speculates, is a new section of this gazette dedicated to sharing ideas in that way.
As some will have already figured out, the heading borrows –well, steals– from statistician I.J. Good who edited in 1962 a volume titled “The Scientist Speculates: A collection of partly-baked ideas”. Good’s explanation of the key idea behind the project is simple: “It is often better to be stimulating and wrong than boring and right”. It seems appropriate that The Reasoner Speculates should start with I.J. Good’s own initial contribution to the volume. It will also provide very useful editorial guidelines.
Are you leading a major individual or collaborative research project? The Dissemination Corner allows you to tell us all about it: the scientific results, the open positions and the events related to the project. By doing this you will also help creating awareness of what’s currently going on (and what’s been funded) in the wider field
Franz Berto’s Logic of Conceivability starts off the Dissemination Corner in this issue. By the way, Franz is hiring on this project right now, check the details below.
If you’d like to contribute to the Dissemination Corner, please send us a 1000 word description of your project. Depending on the size of your project/group you will then submit a bi-monthly or a semesterly update.
The Reasoner Reviews
The Reasoner Reviews introduce a research topic from the point of view of the reasoner who reviews it. It is less comprehensive, more personal, and less history-oriented than an encyclopaedia entry. It is future-oriented to the extent it puts open problems under the
spotlight, especially those which will benefit from a multi-disciplinary take. It should be no longer than 2000 words.
Multiple Reviews are encouraged for the very same topic. Ideally, but not necessarily, The Reasoner Reviews provide the background for regular columns on What’s hot in … the topic.
Reviews from recent PhD graduates are particularly welcome, and will be labelled as such. Do not hesitate to present your view of the field, because that’s what we are interested in, along with your results (of course!).
What’s Hot in…
This isn’t new at all, it is rather one of the most recognisable feature of The Reasoner. However I’d like to spend the last few words of this editorial on it. Currently running columns include Evidence-Based Medicine by Michael Wilde and Uncertain Reasoning by Seamus Bradley. (Formal) Argumentation Theory by Sanjay Modgil is in the pipeline, as is a regular contribution on Financial Reasoning edited by Nicolas Wuethrich. But there are many more topics of interest here, including all things related to Statistics/Machine Learning/Big Data, Legal Reasoning and the Psychology of Reasoning. If you are interested in reporting on What’s Hot in your area, please send us a Review. Columns should be no longer than 1000 words.