Wednesday, November 29, 2006

More Musings on Reviewing

If I do all the reviews I've promised to do in the next month, I will have reviewed 21 manuscripts this year for 9 different journals, not counting manuscripts I've handled as an editor of one journal and associate editor of another; an addition that would easily double the total and more. Add in proposal reviews, tenure/promotion reviews, and such, and the number gets a bit alarming.

A number I don't keep track of but am now curious about is how many reviews I decline to do. I can think of at least 5-6 I've declined in recent months. Reasons I decline to review, in order of most common to least common reasons:

- I have 5-6 reviews I'm already working on and just can't commit to another one (unless it is an absolutely fascinating sounding paper or one I feel I should do for various reasons)

- I've already reviewed the manuscript for another journal, it was rejected, and I can't bear to read it again in its resubmitted form to another journal even if I feel that humanity will suffer if this paper is ever inflicted on the world.

- The manuscript isn't something I have any expertise in and can't imagine why I was asked to review it.

My husband reviews a similar number of manuscripts each year, but we both think we do a lot of reviews compared to many of our colleagues. This opinion is not based on any data though.

Since writing a few days ago that I wasn't going to agree to do any more reviews this year, I have agreed to two more.


DrOtter said...

The PI I currently work for tends to send the papers for review to a group of us in the lab. This includes new grad students, senior grad students, the lab manager and postdocs. We read the paper, make notes then discuss the paper (actually we did a grant application recently as well this way). The PI takes notes then writes it up appropriately then sends it off. It works because our PI gets reviews in areas that are very broad and then picks the people in the lab with the best experience. At the end of the day the PI writes the review and signs it, we just contribute to the thought process. I like it because my PhD supervisor never did anything like that and I am fascinated by the process.

Anonymous said...

On the downside, the information is supposed to be confidential until it is published, and 30 people having access as opposed to just the 3 advertised, no matter if they don't have as many connections and knowledge to steal your project, is a little worrying...

Anonymous said...

I have been doing 1-2 reviews a month as a postdoc. It is kind of a lot, but if the paper is directly related to my own research, I don't like to turn it down (unless it looks like a horrible paper that I don't want to bother to read).

Anonymous said...

By the way, as sciencewoman said in her own cryptic comment a while back, if you happen to be at a certain conference in the 2nd week of december, i might be in the same location... email me at dr_shellie at yahoo if you want to meet up.

Anonymous said...

It is hard to say no to things, isn't it, if we perceive them to be a kind of a duty? Even when we know they take time to do properly and we don't actually have the time. Does not stop people asking, though. I guess it is bad with reviews becuase it involves a lot of different journals or funders. If there were only one journal or one funder, they could set a bar on how many invites they send out.
(this comment is ironic incidentally, in case anyone thinks I am thinking this is actually possible.)

Ms.PhD said...

FSP, I find it interesting that you turn down bad papers that you know shouldn't get published, because you can't stand looking at them again. I totally understand this inclination, but is it better to keep rejecting this paper or to give the people a fair shot at an unbiased review?

Shouldn't one always recuse oneself if they've seen the same paper at another journal? Does anyone bother to ask potential reviewers whether they have prior or outside knowledge of this work?

Propter Doc, Thanks for sharing this. I agree that it's an interesting teaching tool, but you could learn the same things in a good journal club with papers that have already been accepted, and it wouldn't be a breach of ethics. I've blogged before about how I wonder whether anyone realizes how common it is for papers to be reviewed by people other than those the editors explicitly request (i.e. lab members under the PI).