I recently learned about Peer Community In (PCI), a new system for reviewing and recommending preprints. I’m really intrigued. It’s true that I’m an old fuddy-duddy who’s on record as saying that we often exaggerate the problems with the status quo, and as not liking to think outside the box. And yet there are good reasons to think it might be good to have other ways beyond traditional journals to disseminate science. We should experiment with a variety of new systems, and PCI seems like one well worth exploring. Read on to learn more!
What follows is a guest post by Denis Bourguet (firstname.lastname@example.org), Benoit Facon (email@example.com), Thomas Guillemaud (firstname.lastname@example.org), and Ruth Hufbauer (email@example.com). DB, BF, and TG are the founders of PCI, and RH is a colleague and member of the board of PCI Evol Biol.
We believe that the current system of publishing with academic journals suffers from four crucial problems. First, Continue reading
Image: Asim Saeed via flickr.com CC-BY-2.0
This is a joint post by Steve Heard and Andrew Hendry (crossposted here on Andrew’s blog).
Another week, another rejection, right? If you’ve been in science long at all, you almost certainly have a bulging file of rejections for grants, manuscripts, fellowships, and even jobs. Here, for example, is Steve’s truly impressive job-rejection history; and here’s a previous analysis of Andrew’s manuscript rejections.
We were part of a recent Twitter exchange that began when Steve tweeted in celebration of submitting a manuscript – to its third different journal:
Like most people, I often feel a little impostery. I’m convinced that sooner or later, people will notice that my work isn’t actually all that important, that my papers are somehow flawed, that I don’t really know what I’m talking about when I teach. (People may even figure out that Scientist Sees Squirrel is seldom original, mostly wrong, and only occasionally interesting.)
I was part of some discussion on Twitter recently about imposter syndrome in the particular context of peer reviewing. Some folks worry that they really aren’t qualified to review. They worry that they may make the wrong recommendation: either miss a critical flaw or (conversely) see something as a critical flaw that really isn’t. As an editor, I’ve had people whose judgement I respect decline to review on the grounds that they didn’t feel confident in their reviewing abilities. Ironically, these are often the early career scientists who tend to be absolutely terrific reviewers.
For a variety of reasons, I think this fear is generally misplaced. Continue reading
How should you handle a useless review? I don’t mean one that’s actively idiotic, but a review that’s superficial, misunderstands the manuscript, is positive but lukewarm, or otherwise just doesn’t seem to point to any avenues for improvement. Perhaps it’s this gem:
This study seems competently executed, and most of the writing is pretty good. A few analyses could benefit from more modern approaches. However, in the end I’m unconvinced of its importance.*
Let’s start with how not to handle a useless review. Continue reading
Photo: Journal of Universal Rejection coffee mug (crop), by Tilemahos Efthimiadis via flickr.com, CC BY-SA 2.0.
Peer review gets a lot of grief. It’s one of the things we love to say is “broken”. It takes too long, or at least we think it does. Occasionally a reviewer completely misses the point, goes on an ad hominem attack, or produces some other kind of idiotic review. But for all the flak aimed its way, I’m convinced that peer review – overall – is fantastic; volunteer reviewers and editors have vastly improved nearly every one of my papers.
But there’s one kind of review that really burns my bacon. Continue reading
Image: Cover of The Idiot, by John Kendick Bangs (Harper and Bros. 1895). Yes, I know there’s a much more famous The Idiot.
If it hasn’t happened to you yet, it will: you submit a manuscript for publication and get back a peer review that makes you spit with fury. “What an idiot!” you snarl, “how could a reviewer ever think that?”
Our peer review system works extremely well, overall*. But reviewers are human, just like the rest of us – so a few of them just aren’t that good at it, and a few behave badly, and even the very best have bad days. So you will get that idiotic review. What then? Continue reading
Some people ignore the Acknowledgements sections of papers, but they’re one of my favourite bits. Not because they have much to do with telling the paper’s story – they don’t – but because they can reward a reader with the kind of writing style, personality, and humour that’s otherwise in short supply in our scientific writing. My favourite Acknowledgements section of all time, though, isn’t one that’s particularly funny or beautiful. Instead, it’s one that makes a very profound point about the value of criticism. Here it is, in its entirety: Continue reading