Friday, 12 December 2008

Listing the 700 people who reviewed papers for CM&E this year

Each year, the editors of Construction Management and Economics like to compile a list of all the referees who have reviewed papers in the preceding 12 months, and thank them formally by publishing this list. Given that we have a database recording everyone's involvement, and their contact details, this should be, on the face of it, a simple task. On listing the people who had been active, I first noticed the obvious errors. Some people had been entered twice into the system, sometimes by themselves, sometimes by their co-authors. The system distinguished people by their e-mail addresses, but these change, or people use different ones for different purposes. Then I found that some people type their details all in lower case or all capitals, so I had to fix that, both in the outputted list and in the database. Then I found that a large number of people never bothered to enter their institution, so I had to figure it out from their e-mail addresses, or if that was not clear, find a paper they had authored, then inspect the cover page. Some people have middle initials, but there was no consistency as to whether they put a full-stop after their initial or not. I had to add one for every user who had omitted it, on the basis that if I subsequently wanted to remove it from any output for consistency, a global search and replace would have something to go at. Some users are unfamiliar with the name of their own university! Several had XYZ University, when it should be University of XYZ. Others had apparently not noticed that their University had changed its name, sometimes several years ago. Some had entered the University and part of their address, but not bothered changing the default country (UK), so I had to relocate them to their correct country. And then we noticed that strange thing had happened in the database (which is maintained by a software house in USA). Certain countries had been changed, arbitrarily. While Taiwan had changed to "Taiwan, Province of China", Iran had changed to "Iran, Islamic Republic of" and Hong Kong, SAR China had changed to just "Hong Kong". We decided that the change to Iran and Hong Kong were OK, but were aware of the sensitivities surrounding the status of Taiwan. All of the entries for Taiwan had to be edited manually, because countries are selected in the database from a drop-down list, which we cannot edit. Perhaps this was why some Taiwanese users had left the country as United Kingdom, because they preferred this kind of mistake over being categorized as part of China. After several hours of editing the list of 700 people, we finally had a list we could publish. Having put most of the errant records straight, and allocated someone to the task of checking the database more thoroughly over the next year, I am optimistic that next year, this will be a ten-minute job!

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