Warning: a little ranty.
I’m fascinated by the weird things some scientists believe, in the face of what seems to me common sense and obvious constraints. There are many examples (like the common disdain for “nearly significant”), but the one I’ve chosen to offend people with today is a surprisingly common belief: that we could have journals pay their peer reviewers out of their profit margins without additional cost to authors. I see this claim frequently, most often on Twitter (although I’m not going to link to any particular exemplar, because the claim is too common to make it sensible to dunk on any one individual).
To get one thing out of the way immediately: I’m talking here about the notion that a journal could pay its reviewers. Continue reading
Warning: header image captures this post pretty well.
Should peer review be open and transparent? Sounds appealing, doesn’t it? Who’d want to go on record as saying anything shouldn’t be made more open and transparent? Well, I’ll give it a go, because I’ve recently declined to review two manuscripts that looked interesting, for a reason that’s entirely new to me.* In both cases, the journals specified that by agreeing to review, I was consenting for my reviewer comments, and the authors’ response, to be published as a supplementary file with the paper. Sorry – I’m not having any part of that. Continue reading
This is a guest post by Jeannette Whitton, Group Chair for Group 1503 (Ecology & Evolution) of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (Canada) (and Professor of Botany, University of British Columbia). She has extensive experience with the review and evaluation of NSERC Discovery Grants (among other things!) While Jeannette writes here specifically about reviewing proposals for Discovery Grants, much of her advice will serve you well in reviewing other kinds of grants, or grants for other agencies*. It will also serve you well in writing grants – because if you know what reviewers and evaluation panels are looking for, you can deliver just what they need. Dig in!
Some weeks ago, you graciously agreed to review an NSERC Discovery Grant (DG) proposal, or possibly two or three**, which makes you an awesome person, especially in 2020. Because of confidentiality issues, we don’t get much training with reviewing grants – but just as for manuscript reviews, it takes time and care to provide a thoughtful grant review. How I review DGs changed after I served on the evaluation panel and got to see what was most useful, so I thought I would write down some thoughts about what to focus on. I hope this helps those who are new to NSERC DG reviews – or to reviewing grants more generally. Comments are most welcome! Continue reading
Last week, I wrote about lists of suggested reviewers (for manuscripts). Most journals require them, although authors sometimes resent it; as an editor I use them and appreciate them very much.. But there’s another list that puzzles some authors: the list of disfavoured reviewers. This is a list of people that you’re requesting not be asked to review your manuscript. As an editor, how do I use that list? And who (if anyone) should you put on yours? Continue reading
You know the feeling: you’ve spent many hours painstakingly massaging your manuscript into compliance with a journal’s idiosyncratic formatting requirements. You’ve spent another two hours battling its online submission system*. You’re almost there – ready to hit “submit” and go for a well-deserved beer or cinnamon bun – but there’s One More Screen. The system wants your list of five recommended reviewers. Does this really matter? What does an editor do with it?
Well, I can’t speak for every editor (and I hope some others will add their own thoughts in the Replies). But I can tell you what I do with them, and perhaps that can guide you when you get asked for that list. Continue reading
It’s been a rough couple of weeks for rose coloured glasses in biology. There’s the unfolding saga of paper retractions in social behaviour; and then there’s cite-my-paper-gate. I don’t have much to say about the former (beyond expressing my admiration for the many scientists who are handling their unintended involvement with grace and integrity). But the latter made me think.
If you didn’t hear about cite-my-paper-gate: someone (yet to be publicly identified) has been busted over all kinds of reviewing and editing malpractice. Continue reading
Image: Experiment, © Nick Youngson via picpedia.org, CC BY-SA 3.0
I’m often puzzled by the reluctance of scientists to think scientifically and do science. “Wait”, you say, “that’s a bizarre claim – we do science all the time, that’s why we’re called scientists”. Well, yes, and no.
We love doing science on nature – the observations and experiments and theoretical work we deploy in discovering how the universe works. What we don’t seem to love nearly as much is doing science on ourselves. Continue reading
Image: Gandalf the Gatekeeper, CC 0 via goodfreephotos.com
Peer review is arguably central to what we do as scientists – to a considerable extent it’s what lets us recognize an authentic scientific enterprise. Consider, for instance, the distinction between peer-reviewed publications and hack pieces in predatory journals; or think about how peer-reviewed grant proposals differ from pork-barrel politics. Given this key role, it’s rather surprising to find a great deal of disagreement about what peer review is for, how it works best, or even whether it works at all.
Along these lines, I was very surprised a couple of weeks ago to see a flurry of tweets from some folks who wanted journals to give them a simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down on their manuscripts. No comments, please, and no suggestions for improvement, thanks, just a writ of execution or an ennoblement. Continue reading
Image: One way? © Andrea Schafthuizen licensed CC 0 via publicdomainpictures.net
Last week I got the first two peer reviews of my new book (of the complete manuscript, that is*). I read them with equal doses of eagerness and trepidation (as one does), and before long something very, very familiar happened: I caught Reviewer 1 and Reviewer 2 offering exactly opposite and completely conflicting suggestions. It was a structural issue: according to Reviewer 1, the book has too many short chapters and I should combine them into fewer, longer ones, while according to Reviewer 2, shorter chapters are a plus because they make the material easier to absorb. So what do I do? Continue reading
Image: The reviewer-selection screen at one journal I edit for.
Warning: more detail than you may care for.
Every manuscript submitted to a (peer-reviewed) journal needs reviewers, and it’s the editor’s job to choose appropriate ones. How does that happen? Have you wondered? Well, I can’t tell you how it happens in general; but I can tell you how I do it. Continue reading