Publishing Tips: Concerned About Peer Reviewers

One of the frequently confounding experiences that professors like you have had in scholarly publishing involves peer reviewers, whose comments sometimes conflict with each other or whose critiques are abusive or clueless.

You are not alone. According to an article by Jeffrey Brainard entitled “Incompetence Tops List of Complaints About Peer Reviewers” in The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Incompetence by their reviewers was the most common problem reported by scientists who submitted manuscripts to scholarly journals. Almost two-thirds voiced that beef in a survey administered to scientists employed by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

The supposedly expert reviewers, scientists complained, had not carefully read articles, were unfamiliar with the subject matter, or made mistakes of fact or reasoning. The survey results, the first of their kind, were reported in the September issue of the journal Science and Engineering Ethics.

Only a small percentage of scientists reported experiencing two of the most serious violations of peer-review ethics, breach of confidentiality (7 percent) or theft of ideas (5 percent). That finding appears at odds with anecdotal reports that those two problems are pervasive and that the peer-review system is a corrupt, old-boys’ network.

Complete articles available on line to subscribers.

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