Positive comments on peer review

We all complain about peer review, particularly when our best work is rejected by every journal from Nature Genetics down to that journal that will publish anything, so that it finally appears in a volume to honor some guy that only he will read.

However, sometimes an anonymous reviewer will identify an important flaw in a paper that you can fix before it’s published, thus saving you from potential public embarrassment.

That happened to me again today. I finally got the reviews back for a paper, eight weeks after it was submitted. I had become a bit impatient, but one of the reviewers identified a hole in our theory section, which we can now fix before publication (I think we figured it out this afternoon), thus avoiding public embarrassment, except for the fact that I’m currently pointing it out publicly.

Complaints about the peer review process are not unlike a common complaint about statisticians: that we are a barrier to scientists publishing what they know to be true. That is sometimes the case, but at other times, both reviewers and statisticians can help you to avoid embarrassing yourself.

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8 Responses to “Positive comments on peer review”

  1. Joe Pineda Says:

    I think it’s true for all types of writing that peer review is the best kind of critique you can receive. It’s always done with a lot of respect, and the insight provided by an outside source can become extremely valuable (as it was the case this time).

  2. Petr Šimeček Says:

    In genetics the problem might be we are not true “peers”. I am unable to review biological part of the papers and the statistical part is often so complex that most geneticists are not interested in it at all.

    That causes issues like “RNA studies under fire” http://www.nature.com/news/rna-studies-under-fire-1.10502

    I used to work with animal scientists (mostly ethology) and my impression is that they care more and know more about statistics. However, it is easier to master PROC MIXED (SAS) than to analyze microarray or QTL data (or even more novel sequenation data).

  3. anon Says:

    Impatient? Eight weeks? In my field, eight weeks is greased lightning. I’m waiting for them to finish reviewing a 14-page paper I submitted in January 2011!

    • Karl Broman Says:

      You’re right; I shouldn’t have been impatient. But given that a reviewer will seldom spend more than a day on a review, it is wrong for it to take much more than two months for initial reviews to be returned to the author.

  4. Ed Hollox Says:

    Well, we did reference your paper the Festschrift for Terry Speed in a paper of ours (PubMed ID 19131514 ref 27). Are we the only ones?

  5. Ed Hollox Says:

    And as an aside, I had a very similar experience in a paper of ours due out soon. A statistician reviewer was really helpful, and helped point out a flaw in our analysis. Luckily the results were still the same after the reanalysis, but it’s good to do things properly.

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