Peer Reviews Are Not Easy For Authors and Neither For Reviewers. (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla)
I have been involved in research since 2003 beginning with the work behind carrying out a PhD. The pressure for me came before thinking about publishing any paper due to a demanding agenda designed to accommodate the requirements from a none academic institution and its representing supervisor, pushing me to have ready on paper the whole load of designing, performing, analysing, discussing, writing, editing and proof reading my thesis within 3 years (for their internal records). Thereafter I had the pressure coming from having to accomplish the demands under a different research position aimed for knowledge exchange dragging me into methods designing and implementation for Aerobiological studies, leaving aside the relevance of publishing until the last minute. Ultimately, I have become a researcher whom has reviewed more papers for scientific journals than I have published for myself. So, I want to share some points from my experience as “user” and “reviewer” of scientific papers.
First of all, the willingness to help fellow researchers throughout a review varies accordingly with the variable sense of facing a work more or less thought through.
e.g. I remember an article with a methodology for air quality monitoring based on “consecutive weekly periods of time”. After scrutiny, I identified those “weeks” having a length of “5 days”. So, how can you not know your own sampling methods?? And more importantly, they were comparing parameters between similar periods of time “in length”, but comparing periods including weekends (industry reduces activity) with periods without weekends, with “no distinction”. That makes weak the methodology and the whole section of results and discussion. In another hand, I have seen some articles discussing results which are not mentioned in the methodology. And methodologies being picked up without justification.
The level of messiness and lack of links connecting the parts throughout the paper can be irritating and affect the quality of the review. So, I have myself started to make reviews creating a table, with parallel columns for each section, in which I am adding the points addressed so I can find easier the links through the whole paper.
I would profoundly suggest to authors to create similar type of table before submitting a paper, and also journals should have a template like it for submission. Accordingly, the intro with the justification of the suitability of the methodology selected should match with the description in the methods section, and then with the results obtained for each analysis, and these with the discussion. All side by side in your table.
Another issue that has appeared in my experience is that it is expected that authors have carefully reviewed the existing literature associated with a specific topic.
Well, actually, that is what it is expected and some authors seem to lean back in such assumption. Then, as reviewer you face two options. If you just point it out you don´t know what are they going to do about it for the next review and it might elongate the process if they fail. If you add your own literature review you start to become relevant in the body of work presented since it might alter the interpretation of the results and discussion. So that creates a conflict when trying to ensure the absence of ghost writers defending the authorship of the manuscript. And remember that reviewers, not only don´t get reimbursed, but neither is its contribution recognised.
For me, I have been forced to stop doing reviews since I am in transition between jobs without institutional support and I don´t have easy access to published papers to perform a proper peer process. And if I give my review I want to be sure that it does not suffers from lack of attention.
The value of the data presented and discussed in a paper is always the reflection of the suitability and understanding of the methodology chosen. And most importantly, despite of any peer review process leading to publication, the most important review comes when every researcher “becomes a reviewer” judging if a published article is good enough to be incorporated and being cited as part of a new work.
(Any scientist working in disciplines related with the topics that I treat in my blog knows how to judge the contribution that my work could potentially add to the state of knowledge. Since I am in transition looking for a position in research, if you are one of those scientists, by just acknowledging any value you might see from my contribution would not only make justice to my effort as independent researcher, but ultimately, it will help me to enhance my chances to find a position with resources to further develop my work.
If you feel like sharing this post I would appreciate to have a reference about the place or platform, by private or public message, in order for me to have the opportunity to join the debate and be aware of the repercussion which might generate d.fdezsevilla(at)gmail.com)
For anybody interested in other posts addressing environmental challenges in the field of science check the category “opinion“.
You can find also posts addressing specific environmental issues thorughout the rest of the categories mentioned at the top of the blog’s page. Please check them out:
- New theory proposal to assess possible changes in Atmospheric Circulation (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) Posted on October 21, 2014. http://wp.me/p403AM-k3
- Why there is no need for the Polar Vortex to break in order to have a wobbling Jet Stream and polar weather? (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) Posted on November 14, 2014. http://wp.me/p403AM-mt
- Gathering data to make visible the invisible (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) Posted on December 22, 2014. http://wp.me/p403AM-pN
- State of the Polar Vortex. Broken? From 29 Nov 2014 to 5th Jan 2015 (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla). Posted on November 29, 2014. http://wp.me/p403AM-o7
- Probability in the atmospheric circulation dictating the Weather (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) Posted on January 15, 2015. http://wp.me/p403AM-rm
- Meteorological Outlook Feb 2015 (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) Posted on February 7, 2015. http://wp.me/p403AM-sU
- Revisiting the theory of “Facing a decrease in the differential gradients of energy in atmospheric circulation” by Diego Fdez-Sevilla. Posted on February 10, 2015. http://wp.me/p403AM-to