Author Archive

Sanity Checks for Complex Proofs

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I ran into this article today: Ten Signs a Claimed Mathematical Breakthrough is Wrong. While the author is writing from the perspective of quantum mechanics, I think we can extend many of the sanity checks to problems in communication theory and signal processing as well.

I really like the first point: “the authors don’t use TeX”. I don’t know why but there seems to be such a correlation but I have seen this time and again.

Need help with poster conceptualization

Miscellaneous 1 Comment »

As many of you know, I’m obsessed with overhead these days. I like to think visually and want to organize my thoughts on a poster, kind of like a white board. Here is what I would like to do: Have a virtual poster or white board where I can draw block diagrams and put latex text with equations and references in different movable blocks. Is there a software package (for the MAC) where this can be done? I guess I could use texpoint and powerpoint but then I can’t use bibtex. Any thoughts? Basically I want different objects I can move.

3G is finally here

WSIL News & Views 6 Comments »

I am glad to be writing the first post from a 3G device. Wireless is really great. It seems though that 3G is here maybe 7 years late. In any case I look forward to working with some MIMO enabled devices soon. Wsil let’s make this a reality!

New group structure

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I’m pleased to announce the creation of several new positions within the WSIL. These positions are a result of appointment (by me) with a term of office of one year, with possible extensions. A description of these positions and the responsibilities is provided below.

  • Vice President of Information Technology Administration [Current volunteer is Sanmi] - Deals with questions about computer account access, hardware, etc.
  • Vice President of Social Networking [Current volunteer is Takao] - Takes the lead in planning group activities, making reservations, coordinating schedules, thinking of fun and nondestructive activities.
  • Vice President of Conference Deadlines [Current volunteer is Caleb] -  Keeps our conference deadlines page up to date. Mentions current deadlines in every group meeting to get everyone motivated.
  • Vice President of Local Arrangements [Current volunteer is Kaibin] Helps visiting students, new students in practical arrangements.
  • Vice President of Posters, Handouts, and Web Updates [Current volunteer is Chan-Byoung]. Coordinates poster volunteers, handouts, and web updates. Does not do these things themselves, rather serves as point person to apply appropriate pressure to make sure these tasks are done on time.

The main reason to introduce these new assignments is to provide a point-of-contact for different group activities. I’m not sure how other researchers run their groups, but this seems like a sensible approach to me. Are we missing key responsibilities?

Prof. Robert Heath

Kaibin receives best student paper award

WSIL News & Views 5 Comments »

Ok, I know it seems unbelievable that a hat trick of best student paper awards could actually happen in one year but it did…

Please join me in congratulating Kaibin Huang (special mention to Bishwarup Mondal, former student) for winning the best student paper award in Communication Systems at GLOBECOM in San Francisco for the paper

K. Huang, B. Mondal, R. W. Heath, Jr., and J. G. Andrews, “Multi-Antenna Limited Feedback for Temporally-Correlated Channels: Feedback Compression,'’ accepted to Proc. of IEEE Global Telecommunications Conf., Nov. 27 - Dec. 1, San Francisco, CA, USA.

The award decision was based on (i) paper evaluations and (ii) on the oral presentation. There was a group of judges that made the final decision on oral presentations.

Great job Kaibin! I think there is a cash award that will naturally be spent on a gift for his wife and something for us.

Bob Daniels wins Innovative Signal Analysis Award

WSIL News & Views 3 Comments »

Congratulations to Robert Daniels who won the Innovative Signal Analysis Award this year. The prize is $5,000 - which looks like a lot of money for coffee and Karaoke to me! Great job!


WSIL News & Views 1 Comment »

Just found out today that we won an award for the ITMANET program! This is early news and the amount isn’t finalized yet but the budget submitted was more than $6M dollars. The mission of the ITMANET program is to develop and exploit more powerful information theory concerning mobile wireless networks. Our proposal, led by Prof. Jeff Andrews and with several Co-PI’s including Sanjay Shakkottai and Peter Stone from UT Austin, Dina Katabi from MIT, Aylin Yener from Penn State, Randal Berry and Dongning Guo from Northwestern, Michael Neely from USC, Nihar Jindal from U Minnessota, Syed Jafar from UC Irvine, and Martin Haenggi from Notre Dame, was built around a concept called non-equilibrium information theory. My role involves research on feedback in multi-hop networks, MIMO multi-hop protocols, the MIMO relay channel, as well as some experimental work. More information will come in the next few weeks. Needless to say this underscores the need to put more energy on multi-hop research problems in WSIL.

Reviewing a Journal Paper - Guidelines

Reference, WSIL Procedures 6 Comments »

It is that time of year again. No, not spring, its the beginning of the semester. As the semester is kicking in, so does the ever present flow of journal paper review requests. I get 2-3 review requests a week and often end up delegating them to my students, when they are of mutual interest. In this summary I provide some details about the reviewing process for journal papers.
Why should you review a paper? In brief, reviewing a paper provides:

  1. A window into the review process. When you review a paper you read a manuscript critically, and hopefully start to realize potential criticisms of your own manuscript.
  2. A privileged insight into state-of-the-art in research, new research tools, methods, etc. Remember that reviews are confidential - nothing learned can be used until the paper is published. If you find something new, write it down and put it away until the journal or conference version appears.

Reviewing is a duty of every active researcher. If you submit a paper to any journal, you are, karmic-ally speaking, obliged to review one or more papers in return. Note, this does not mean that you are obliged to respond positively to every review request. To be fair to the authors and editors, you should only accept papers that you can confidently review, either on topics you know or are willing to get to know. Feel free to say no if you have a good reason. Keep in mind that you should try to review papers in your research area as a means of keeping in touch with the research world.

Reviewing also gains visibility. Editors are potential sources of employment, for academic jobs, or reference letters. Writing good detailed reviews may lead to a postdoctoral position, job, or collaboration later one.

Now the hard part, actually reviewing a paper. This is a matter of personal taste. Many may not agree with my suggestions but, as an editor, this is what I would like to see from a reviewer.

Review guidelines

  1. A serious review should be at least 1-2 pages of single spaced text. Longer is generally better. In extraordinary cases, there will be a really good paper and you just can’t find enough to complain about. In most cases though there will be many issues.
  2. Your review is preferably written in plain text and pasted into the appropriate manuscript central window (or sent to the editor in an email). You can also use a pdf but sometimes pdf files have tags that can identify you. If possible avoid pdfs and this pitfall of being identified.
  3. Plan to spend anywhere from 2 hours - 2 days on a paper review. It depends on how well you know the area. If you don’t know the area you may have to do some background reading to see if the proposed research is novel.
  4. Always do your own check for novelty. Often authors do not cite important papers. Do not rely just on the list provided by the authors, especially if it is quite thin, i.e. less than 20 references.
  5. The most important ingredient of a review is critical insight. You must demonstrate a clear understanding of the paper and form a strong opinion. Your written review must reflect this.
  6. Typical composition of a review
    • Summary of the review. In this case you summarize the review in your own words and provide a recommendation. Typically this includes a summary of the key contributions of the paper (your opinion of the key contributions, not a restatement of the abstract) and some justification for your recommendation. Recommendations include
      • Accept - This is super strong and should only be applied to absolutely stellar papers on the first round of reviews. Can be used on subsequent rounds if paper has evolved to an acceptable level.
      • Minor revisions - This is quite strong. Usually used for the case where the technical content is sound but there are some issues that you believe can be addressed by the authors. Paper is typically accepted after minor revisions.
      • Major revisions - This is weak. Used for cases where you have some concerns about the manuscript that you don’t know if can be addressed, or if you have a lot of comments and you want to make sure they are all addressed.
      • Reject - This is the worst outcome for the authors. Used in cases where there are major flaws in the paper or it requires a major revision. Sometimes rejected papers are (and should be) resubmitted. Other times not.
    • List of issues in the paper with discussion. Typically this will take the form of a bulleted or numbered list of paragraphs. Numbering helps the authors respond to your comments in their reply. In each of these cases, I suggest that you include a summary of the issue and some discussion. For example “I don’t believe the derivations in equation (XX). A previous paper [ref to paper] showed that …” Examples of major issues include
      • Problems with writing
      • Problems with derivations
      • Errors in equations
      • References missing
      • Simulation results missing
      • Comparisons missing
      • Paper organization needs improvement
      • Problems with references (number, formatting, etc)
    • List of less critical concerns. This includes typos, formatting issues, grammatical errors, etc.
  7. Be careful to maintain your anonymous status when you review a paper. Be careful about citing your own work - it is often a dead giveaway. It is tempting when you read a paper related to your research but be very careful. It is especially important not to cite your own preprints, or preprints of others, that are not widely available on the web. I have had several excited reviewers cite many of my papers in their reviews for me. It puts me in an awkward position. Cite what is relevant. Only cite your paper if absolutely essential and then with some other papers as well.
  8. Avoid conflicts of interest. Never review papers co-authored by your advisor. Be careful about reviewing papers of close collaborators. If you can’t provide an unbiased review then you should pass on it, or at a minimum disclose to the editor.
  9. Sleep on the review and reread before submitting. Even if the paper is quite bad, don’t be too harsh. A review that is offensive to the authors is just that - offensive. It makes it harder for the editor and shows a lack of refinement. If the paper is poor, simply document this as best you can. Do not get emotional.
  10. Submit your review on time. It helps authors and reviewers if you can submit the review in the timeframe agreed.
  11. Check as much of the paper as possible. It is hard to rerun the simulations yourself but you should check the math in the paper and all other statements. Often steps are missing, proofs not quite correct, etc. Check everything. If you can’t check it, disclose this to the editor / author. Often the authors need to provide a better explanation to you, especially if this is your area.
  12. Don’t be afraid to reject papers. Often first-time reviewers write a very harsh review then proceed to accept the paper. This is hard on the editor. On the other hand, don’t be afraid to accept good papers. You will review papers that are quite good. It happens.
  13. On paper revisions, make sure the authors addressed your comments in the manuscript. Too often authors simply respond to the reviewer without changing the manuscript. Read all the reviews and check new parts of the manuscript. If your comments have been satisfied then accept the paper. If not then ask for another revision.

That’s all for now! Please post questions or comments and I will revise as appropriate.

Blogging from 33,000 ft

Miscellaneous 4 Comments »

Many of you may have seen the recent posting about Boeing shutting down the Connexion service. Well for the moment it is still working. I’m sending this from about 33,000 feet above the pacific. It’s funny - a really useful service and it isn’t profitable. I think that instead of providing free WiFi in the Silicon Valley, Google should focus on providing free WiFi in airplanes where people really need it.

I believe that the fundamental reason this service isn’t profitable is simply that it is hard to use your laptop in economy class. On international flights there is more space but the recline is lower so if you are sitting behind a recliner, you are out of luck! It seems with all the engineering talent produced in the world that it shouldn’t be too hard to create a seat with a hollow back simplifying the laptop process. Or why have seats at all? Why not configure the airplane with little cells, kind of like a beehive. Yes I know, safety issues and all that but I think most of us would rather sleep than sit up.

That’s all for now. Off to Seoul!

Thoughts on the International Symposium on Information Theory

WSIL News & Views 2 Comments »

I just got back from the International Symposium on Information Theory, held in Seattle. This is the premier conference on Information Theory and is sponsored by the Information Theory Society in the IEEE. Overall I was very impressed with the conference. It is bigger than a workshop but smaller than GLOBECOM or ICASSP. There were around 8 parallel sessions at once.

I was especially impressed with the presentations at the conference. While the Transactions on Information Theory these days seems to glorify obtuse writing and an overly mathematical exposition, many of the presentations I attended did not reflect this. While some presented the utmost details of their proofs to a sleeping audience, quite a few had a nice balance between theory and intuition. I was especially impressed by the asymptotic results. For example, Mike Honig had a nice result on limited feedback systems with training, including relationships between capacity, codebook size, the length of training signal, and the fraction of data.

Overall I think it would be worthwhile to spend more time thinking about system level issues from an information theoretic framework.