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
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: “Waiting”, Edgar Degas, circa 1882 (pastel on paper). Collection of the Getty Center, Los Angeles. Public domain.
I’m sure it’s happened to you. It’s happened to me. With excitement, you punch the “submit” button, and celebrate your manuscript being off your desk and into peer review. And then you wait. And wait. And you wait some more. Sometimes, it feels like you’re waiting forever. When that happens, is it appropriate to e-mail the journal office to ask what’s holding things up? And if so, how long should you wait? Continue reading
Warning: another grumpy one
I’m seeing it more and more: requests to review manuscripts with ludicrously short deadlines. Sometimes 10 days, sometimes 7, sometimes one week (5 business days). And I see editors on Twitter bragging about a paper they’ve shepherd through the entire review process in 5 days, or a week, or two weeks. I want all this to stop. Continue reading
It happened to me again, a few weeks ago: a manuscript I’d had high hopes for came back from the journal with a decision of “reject, but with an invitation to resubmit”. It’s better than a flat-out reject, to be sure, but disappointing nonetheless.
There’s a widespread belief – almost a conspiracy theory – that journals use “reject, but resubmit” as a device to cheat on their handling time statistics (by which we mostly mean time from submission to first acceptance). After all, if a manuscript gets “revision”, the clock keeps ticking from the original submission; but “reject, but resubmit” means we can pretend the resubmission is a brand new manuscript and start the clock over. Clever but deceptive move, right? Continue reading
I’ve seen half a dozen posts and essays arguing that we should stop publicizing, listing, or paying attention to the names of the journals our papers are published in. The argument goes along these lines*. First, we should judge the worth of papers based on their content, not based on where they were published. Second, when filtering papers – deciding which ones to read – we should filter them based on what they’re about (as communicated by their titles and abstracts), not by the journal they’re in.
This argument is, I think, a logical extension of arguments against the impact factor. I think those arguments are overdone, and I think this one is too. Continue reading
Impact factors* are getting lots of use, and (perhaps as a direct result) it’s fashionable to argue that this use should be abhorred. Some days it seems like the impact factor can join the P value, the lecture, the paywalled journal, and bellbottom jeans in the lineup of innovations widely claimed to be obsolete and, perhaps, to have been bad ideas in the first place. And yet, just last week I was talking with a collaborator about where to send a manuscript, and when she mentioned a journal I didn’t know, my first question was “What’s its impact factor?” So: am I guilty of perpetuating the horror that is the impact factor, or was my question a reasonable one? Continue reading
This post is jointly written by Steve Heard and Kathe Todd-Brown. Using the first person for Steve and the third for Kathe seemed less awkward than alternatives, but this should not imply Kathe’s contribution was less important than Steve’s. Disclosure: Steve has been an Associate Editor for The American Naturalist for 13 years. Kathe has not yet taken on an AE role.
So the other day this question (above) popped up in my Twitter timeline: a question from Kathe Todd-Brown, an early-career biogeochemist who’s thinking about how much – and what kinds of – service to take on. I dashed off a superficial reply along the lines of “well, somebody has to, and it’s pretty interesting”.
Then Kathe explained her thinking a little more. When she did, I realized that I’d wondered all the same things at his corresponding career stage. So, here’s Kathe’s longer-form question and my attempt at an answer – not so much directly to her, but to my own early-career self and to anyone with similar questions. Continue reading
It was really fun to post Part I yesterday, but if you read it, perhaps you found it somewhat unsatisfying. Which is more or less my point, but here in Part II I’ll give myself enough room to develop the argument. The convergence of two things spurred me to write this post – one (at least on the surface) just fun; the other, a recent conversation I had about trends in modern publishing.
First, the fun thing: I came across what seems to be a competition to write the shortest possible abstract, and then to one-up that one, the shortest possible paper. Continue reading