Monday, November 19, 2007

Extreme Reviewing

Lately I seem to be suffering from a strange syndrome that could be called review addiction. I could also call it extreme reviewing, not because my reviews are extremely negative/positive or extremely long/short, but because I am currently reviewing what I would typically consider (for me) to be an extreme number of manuscripts (8), in addition to a few dozen proposals.

Another way to describe this syndrome is that I have become a reviewing doormat, unable to just say no to editor requests to review.

There are many possible explanations for my extreme reviewing behavior of late, including:

- Based on the manuscript titles/abstracts, I was interested in reading and reviewing these manuscripts. It just so happens that I have lately been asked to review some interesting papers. I was curious to read them, so it was difficult to decline to review them.

- As someone who seeks reviewers in the capacity of being an editor, I know what it's like to have trouble finding a reviewer for a manuscript. I could easily decline to review a manuscript on the basis that I am unable to take on more reviews. However, if I've got a manageable editorial load at the time I am asked to review another manuscript and I'm interested in the topic, I say yes.

- A year or so ago I started publishing on a research topic that was a new direction for me, and now I get asked to review manuscripts related to this topic. I am interested in establishing myself more in this particular subfield, and reviewing is one way to become part of the scientific community related to this topic.

- I have a manuscript in review or am about to submit a manuscript to all of the journals that recently asked me to review a manuscript. I feel that I have a moral obligation to review for these particular journals, as their editors and reviewers are (or, I hope will soon be) taking the time to consider my manuscripts.

- Some of these manuscripts cite my work, and I have an interest in making sure that this was done appropriately and accurately.

- As I learned last week, I am not quantitative. Perhaps I can't count. Perhaps the number 1 is conceptually the same to me as the number 8.

The perceptive reader will note the use of the Sarcastic Font in the last item, but it could be that I succumbed to a bout of extreme reviewing owing to a related effect, which I will call the incremental effect. That is, I got asked to do a review and said yes. I got asked to do another, and said yes because I can certainly handle 2 reviews. Then I got asked to do another and I figured, what's one more? The end of the semester is approaching and it's an interesting paper and.. then I got asked to do another and it was also an interesting paper and didn't seem to be too long and .. so on.

I wouldn't have agreed to do all these reviews if I didn't think I could do them well and get them done in a timely way. I don't think I will take on any more until 2008, though.

Evidence that I am not a complete review doormat: I turned down one recent review request because one editor sent me two requests in a single day for two different manuscripts for the same journal; I accepted one to review and declined the other.


Ann said...

¡¡¡8!!! You have got to be kidding.
Say no to more than 1 a month.

lkhoyt said...

You are doing a huge service to your field. I know getting reviewers can be a real problem for editors. The basic math is, if every paper *accepted* gets reviewed by two people, then every researcher in the field needs to be reviewing twice as many papers or proposals as s/he is submitting; and really the number is more than two to one, since not everything gets published and some papers have to go to a third reviewer. You're probably going beyond the call to make up for some slackers.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I think the fact that you were asked twice in the same day by the same editor to do two different reviews is strong evidence that this particular editor might think of you as a reviewing doormat.

I'm curious though - how long do you think is an appropriate turnover time for reviewing a journal manuscript? I'm a graduate student so I don't have a good sense of the appropriate response time. I know my advisor likes to respond within a week or two at the most. So by that standard, you would be completing one per day or so. That seems crazy intense!

Female Science Professor said...

If these all had to be done in a week or two, I couldn't do this many. Each editor had a different preferred due date for the reviews, and in some cases I said I could only do the review if it was OK to return the review by LATER DATE; in each case, the editor decided it would be better to have my slightly late review than to seek a different reviewer. So, as long as I work on them steadily, I can get them done.

Anonymous said...

How many hours, on average, do you spend reviewing a single manuscript?

Female Science Professor said...

It varies an extreme amount, from a few hours to many hours over several days. I am about to finish one review that will have taken me a total of about 3 hours, including reading the paper and writing the comments. That's on the quick end, but it was a very short and straightforward paper.

unexplained said...

You know, of course, that you just jinxed yourself by saying no more in 2007... tomorrow the manuscript of your dreams will turn up. I know, because it happened to me! And I think the editor KNEW I'd not only not be able to say no, but that I'd want to read it before a conference session I'm organizing next week on the very topic. So that's what I'll be doing Thanksgiving weekend, if I ever catch up on these student papers!

Anonymous said...

you (or anyone else) haven't yet commented on... a few dozen proposals! you are on a review panel? is that a typical number? for some reason I imagined more like 10ish... -from a grad student just starting to figure this stuff out. :)

Female Science Professor said...

10ish proposals would be very unusual. The most I've ever had to review at one go was ~ 80. A few dozen is not so bad.

Drugmonkey said...

laura, FSP, it would help to be clear what "proposals" you are discussing. In NIH land, a load of 10 proposals to review each round would indeed be a typical limit.

Anonymous said...

Many journals (most?) nowadays have web-based submission tracking systems, in which the editor can see how many times a person has peer-reviewed for the journal and filter the request accordingly. As an editor, I would limit the number of times I asked one person to review a manuscript. It's also helpful for a potential reviewer who is too busy to recommend alternative good reviewers. I hope your load has eased up a bit by now.