Taking on peer review

Authors may need to take some of the blame for what ails the system

Richard Gallagher
Feb 1, 2006

Late last year, a prominent researcher suggested that ?The Scientist write an exposé of the ?glaring iniquities? in peer review at the leading journals such as Science, Cell, and Nature. His list:

» Months-long delays in authors? receiving reviews, caused by a combination of reviewer fatigue, malicious reviewer delay, and chronic understaffing at journals.

» Professional editorial staff who are too young, inexperienced, overworked, and underqualified, resulting in excessive deference to external reviewers.

» An unseemly scramble by the journals to capture ordinary papers in hot fields while giving short shrift to outstanding research in other areas.

Unfortunately, to these you can add real or perceived intimidation, since this same researcher declined to contribute an essay that would have done much to give evidence for the charges. He feared being blackballed by the journals. Intrigued, if not entirely convinced ? my eight-year stint as a manuscript editor at Science and...

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