Thursday, January 26, 2017

The worst: Part 2

A couple of days ago, a very strange e-mail showed up in my inbox. It was an automatically-generated message from the website of a scientific journal, announcing my new username and password for that journal's site. I was awfully confused, because I've never submitted a paper to this particular journal nor had any contact with the editor. I thought it was a technical glitch or that the message was intended for someone with a similar e-mail address.

The next morning, everything was explained. I received a second e-mail from the same journal, this one not automatic. It was a request from the editor, asking me to review a paper that had been recently submitted to the journal. How exciting!

I've been through the peer-review process plenty of times, mostly as an author, but this time I get to be on the other side of the equation. Truth be told, I've actually been asked to review a paper two other times, but for some reason, this time feels more real. The journal is more prominent; the paper is more timely. I feel like I can really make a difference.

The irony to my excitement is that I've previously made my feelings about peer review pretty clear on this blog. The process can be immensely frustrating. To paraphrase Churchill, it is the worst form of review, except for all the others.

I am determined to be a good reviewer. I am determined to free myself of any bias or arrogance and return a constructive critique. Every author deserves for their work to be carefully considered and evaluated, and come what may, I will be the reviewer who does that.

In the meantime, please enjoy this comic, photographed outside someone's office at WHOI in July 2015. The caption reads "Most scientists regarded the new streamlined peer-review process as 'quite an improvement.'" I also recommend this Ph.D. Comic about how to respond to reviewers.

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