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Q&A

Computer science academic conference paper using "randvar" instead of "random variable"

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I am reviewing a computer science submission to an academic conference. The authors use "randvar" instead of "random variable" (as well as "logvar" instead of "logical variable").

I am wondering if, as a reviewer (albeit technical -- there are no editorial reviewers in this conference), I should insist on them using the expanded form. "Randvar" is not standard in computer science or statistics. For example, I've never seen it used in a textbook.

One slight complication is that most papers that use "random variables" do not use "logical variables", but in the specific sub-field to which this paper belongs, both types of variables are used, so it makes a bit more sense to be talking about both types of variables more often, and then it becomes long-winded to be using "random variable" all the time.

Other papers in this specific sub-field use "logvar" more often, but "logical variable" is pretty specific to this sub-field as well, so both are unusual and therefore "logvar" does not seem to be sacrificing much; if you are going to coin a technical term, might as well use the most convenient form. But "random variable" on the other hand is a lot more established across multiple fields and it seems more radical to abbreviate it like this.

Also, of course, there is a page limit and this saves the authors precious space.

Any ideas on this?

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This post was sourced from https://writers.stackexchange.com/q/48352. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

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1 answer

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I peer review many papers; half a dozen this year.

If it is defined before the first use (e.g. "For brevity we use 'randvar' to specify random variables, 'logvar' to specify logical variables.") then I wouldn't complain.

Authors are entitled to invent terminology for a paper, as long as it doesn't conflict with other standard usage. For example, if 'logvar' were widely understood as 'logarithmic variation' or something, you can't use 'logvar' in your paper to mean 'logical variable' even if you tell us that up-front. There is a risk of confusion by readers accustomed to the standard.

But if there is no risk of confusion, let them do it. Space is important, and forcing them to delete a few lines of the paper to accommodate the spelled-out forms is a loss of detail or information that is worse than remembering what 'randvar' stands for.

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