No review this summer

A recent editorial in Nature was a declaration by a biologist from UCL on her refusal to accept refereeing requests during the summer (or was it the summer break), which was motivated by a need to reconnect with her son. Which is a good enough reason (!), but reflects sadly on the increasing pressure on one’s schedule to juggle teaching, research, administration, grant hunting, society service, along with a balanced enough family life. (Although I have been rather privileged in this regard!) Given that refereeing or journal editing is neither visible nor rewarded, it comes as the first task to be postponed or abandoned, even though most of us realise it is essential to keep science working as a whole and to make our own papers published. I have actually noticed an increasing difficulty in the past decade to get (good) referees to accept new reviews, often asking for deadlines that are hurting the authors, like six months. Making them practically unavailable. As I mentioned earlier on this blog, it could be that publishing referees’ reports as discussions would help, since they would become recognised as (unreviewed!) publications, but it is unclear this is the solution. If judging from the similar difficulty in getting discussions for discussed papers. (As an aside, there are two exciting papers coming up for discussion in Series B, ‘Unbiased Markov chain Monte Carlo methods with couplings’ by  Pierre E. Jacob, John O’Leary and Yves F. Atchadé and in Bayesian Analysis, Latent nested nonparametric priors by Frederico Camerlenghi, David Dunson, Antonio Lijoi, Igor Prünster, and Abel Rodríguez). Which is surprising when considering the willingness of a part of the community to engage into forii discussions, sometimes of a considerable length as illustrated on Andrew’s blog.

Another entry in Nature mentioned the case of two University of København tenured professors in geology who were fired for either using a private email address (?!) or being away on field work during an exam and at a conference without permission from the administration. Which does not even remotely sound like a faulty behaviour to me or else I would have been fired eons ago..!

3 Responses to “No review this summer”

  1. je voulais t’en parler… il faudrait que tu rendes les cles de ton bureau… ca fait 3 ans que je te les demande…

  2. I feel that with regard to the issue raised you identify the nature of the problem fairly well (*) and inadvertently propose a solution.

    In particular, you mention the high level of discussion activity on social media forums such as Andrew Gelman’s blog. For me that points to the way forward. Let everyone publish what they want to publish in public repositories, and then let people redirect their energies away from conventional peer review and towards review in such online forums. You are quite good at that yourself!

    (*) Although I would add that the issue is not just one of having more important things to do than carry out an accept/reject review of a paper, it is also one of incompetence and partiality when it comes to the task.

    • One issue with the on-line fori is that they share the social media tendency to over-specialise and concentrate one single perspective, not to mention the always lurking possibility of gratuitous unsupported criticisms. With counter-strikes taking much more time and involvement for requiring rational and motivated statements.

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