Friday, April 15, 2005

Real-life derangements.

A happy ending (at least for one author-set) to the bizarre referee report case:
We just found out that the reviewer had made a mistake with regard to my review and it was intended not for my paper but for some other "lucky" candidate - they are re-evaluating our paper and it may still get in:-) This joker had shuffled up all his four reviews such that none of them matched the actual paper!!
As any computer scientist worth his salt knows, this bizarre event is a derangement: a permutation of n items so that no item is matched to itself. It's often used as the canonical application of the principle of inclusion-exclusion in combinatorics. The likelihood of such an event is not that low; the probability of a derangement (uniformly over the space of all permutations) is 1/e ~= 0.37...

Lest you think that derangements are mathematical arcana, I give you the Married Couples Problem. And let this be a less0n: if you don't like the reviews you get, and have good reasons, don't keep quiet !

p.s I pity the authors that this review was intended for.

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