Sunday, March 25, 2012


So I've got this paper to referee, this horribly written mess. Among its author list are esteemed people I know who clearly didn't even read the full text. It's a silly paper just to pad the CVs of some listed. I know I'm supposed to just sign-off on it, but I can't. I know I'm supposed to point out the most atrocious of the comments and be done with things. Indeed I've already gone through and mentioned most of them. But now I'm thinking of deleting them all and telling the editors that they should publish as is! Right away! Maybe with footnotes next to the most ridiculous stuff saying explicitly that all the authors agree on these points. What do you think?

In any case, I just worry a bit about anonymity...the editors know who is doing the refereeing, and the editors can be pretty chummy with certain folks. Indeed, when one does email reviews of NSF proposals, the panel *sees* who wrote the review! Maybe something similar happens here...someone on the editorial board finds out, and lets the authors know how obnoxious and insulting I was to these people.

But here's the kicker...I'm pissed off that I've probably spent more time "editing" this paper than some of the established authors!


Anonymous said...

I think that you should keep the integrity and say that the paper stinks. Simply.

By the way, are you aware of the boycott to Elsevier journals? []



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Angry said...

Anonymous: Yes, I'm aware but I have nearly nothing to do with that publisher anyway.

In any case, I waited a while to cool off, toned down my self-righteous tone, and wrote a note to the editors with my complaints (the ones about what the authors are doing, instead of what they wrote).

B. said...

I have to review a paper by my competitors. Amongst their rank is a powerful professor. They've sent their paper to PRL. The paper is OK but it's really not PRL standard. (Four pages of dense approximations and calculations in horrible non-relativistic notation, with not much payoff.) What do I do?

The issue here is, the editor is chums with the authors. If I reject the paper, the editor will presumably have a quiet word with the authors and my career will suffer.

Angry said...

Well, you could simply decline to review (you can always just say you're too busy). What might be better is a carefully crafted review that lauds the work of the authors in general but mentions specific, well-considered criticisms in the context of making the paper.

As for being up to the "PRL standard" so little is. If you just hedge a bit without explicitly saying it's not up to snuff, the editors will understand and the authors won't be offended.

Of course there are always those who will petition the editors but then they send the paper to someone else (usually more senior) to break ties, or ultimately to an editor.