2003 Seattle Annual Meeting (November 2–5, 2003)

Paper No. 2
Presentation Time: 8:15 AM


ASHLEY, Gail M., Geological Sciences, Rutgers Univ, 610 Taylor Road, Piscataway, NJ 08854-8066, gmashley@rci.rutgers.edu

The peer review process is the cornerstone of scientific journals publishing papers that report new research results. Reviews serve two purposes: feedback for the author and a critical evaluation of the science for the editor. It is difficult task to serve both masters well. The process is a delicate balancing act between editor and the pool of potential reviewers who are often over committed and contains experts and generalists, experienced and inexperienced, and biased and unbiased scientists. Choosing the best reviewers for a paper and obtaining rigorous and constructive reviews in a timely manner is the ultimate editorial challenge. Experts in the field are likely to be very familiar with the subject, but lack perspective on the appeal of the paper to the general readership. A non-expert may be blinded by the interesting subject matter and not recognize omissions, errors, or old ideas

Additional burdens on the reviewing community are created by the publishing strategy of LPUs (least publishable units) and “shingling”, used by authors under pressure to appear productive. With LPUs the question of whether the results being presented are significant contribution becomes very difficult. Editors seldom ask the reviewer to identify the single most important and/or significant contribution in a paper and whether it is particularly important.

Experienced reviewers are highly valued and as a consequence often overloaded. Inexperienced reviewers often criticize without giving specific suggestions for improvement. Problems with a paper might not be a matter of right or wrong science, but rather a convoluted organization, poor illustrations, and unclear scientific writing. Experience in reviewing helps in seeing the difference between content and presentation. Editors need to choose the most appropriate reviewers without overtaxing the experts and most importantly ask the right questions as having a detailed rationale is critical for supporting sound editorial decisions.