Peer Review is full of excuses

No Excuses by LowerDarnley
No Excuses, a photo by LowerDarnley on Flickr.

Is peer review broken?

Probably, but it’s sort of all we have. We’re stuck with it. There problems are varied: long and vague turnaround times, the lack of transparency, and the need for incentives other than good feelings and prestige.

I just tried my hand at shepherding the peer review process for a conference, and let me just say… it sucked. I appreciate how broken the system is. The problem is us.

We all know we have to do it in some form. We need to write and publish. That means we need to be reviewers as well. It’s collegial. The problem is nobody has the time. We have the time to write. We have the time to sit in meetings and conference calls. We have the time to talk about the need for peer-review and furthering the academic discourse, but we don’t have time to review and comment papers.

I sent out the review reminders. I emailed the reviewers. I got silence. Or I got excuses. I messed up. Part of me is mad at myself for even trying, but that’s just giving up. This is on my shoulders, but really it’s a collective problem. Telling me after the deadline that you are unable to review is little better than saying nowt. Submitting papers and then begging off as too busy to review others hinders the process.

This is why I like blogging. The discussion is open, transparent, and has far fewer hurdles.

So to the reviewers who got the job done on time – thank you. To those who filled in at the last minute – thank you. Everybody else, well… this is one reason I hate peer review. I will only do it again if it’s with a bunch of faculty who can pass papers off onto their grad students, because librarians aren’t cutting it.

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