Damaged Goods

Jan 14 2013 Published by under Peer Review, Science Publication

Have you ever had a manuscript severely damaged by the process of peer review?

by way of example, I can recall one time where the Editor demanded I chop off two experiments..and I did so*.

Otherwise, I'm generally of the opinion that peer review has a positive impact on the manuscript.

___
*Those figures have yet to see the light of day and may never get published. A shame, but then, we got the paper published and the main point was one of the other figures.

13 responses so far

  • odyssey says:

    With the exception of one manuscript all suggested revisions have improved my papers. In that one case, the reviewer wanted some minor changes that helped, plus the addition of some speculation. I was reluctant to add that, but the editor wanted it. It's too early to tell whether it helped or hurt the resulting paper - my bet is neither.

  • Busy says:

    Have you ever had a manuscript severely damaged by the process of peer review?

    No. Not once.

    Even in the cases where I got some inane comment X from a reviewer we took the trouble to add a sentence or footnote clarifying why X is not the case. After all if one reviewer got it wrong, it is likely a reader might also get it wrong, so the clarification is definitely worthwhile.

    I have some beefs with the reviewing process (example: reviews saying "I wish the author had done something else"), but "lowering the quality of the manuscript" is definitely not in my list.

  • Pinko Punko says:

    Yeah, no way. The tough reviews usually improve it for sure or are at least fair.

  • Joe says:

    Does published in a lower tier journal count as severely damaged?

    More seriously, we once had to remove a figure from a paper because one reviewer insisted it not be included. The figure showed that a technique frequently used in the field to indicate enzyme activity did not always indicate activity. Binding the substrate was sufficient to give a positive result. We kept all the text, but the data were not shown.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Does published in a lower tier journal count as severely damaged?

    No.

  • eeke says:

    yes. After doing an additional shitton of experiments, at the request of the reviewers, and adding extra figures, the manuscript was rejected, even though all the new experiments supported our conclusions. It makes me think we were asked to do all that as a means of wasting time - that the reviewers were going to reject it no matter what. It's possible that the editor overrode negative reviews and wanted to give us an extra shot after the first round. We've split it into two manuscripts, each going to a different journal. It may or may not mean an extra paper, but I need the pubs NOW, not later.

  • odyssey says:

    eeke,
    If you had felt the extra experiments were unnecessary you could have pulled the manuscript and sent it somewhere else. It's not like there's a shortage of places to publish, and as DM alluded to in a comment above, publishing in a lower tier journal does not constitute damage.

  • dr24hours says:

    I've only had my work improved, or non understood.

  • Laurent says:

    Most of the time from improved to greatly improved.

    Once deteriorated though. A serious cutting in the discussion (a point discussed that needed some thinking on the part of the reader, with no way to make it simplier) that I went for because I needed the paper published for the sake of bean counting.

    Later a reader asked me why I did not answer the very question I was asking at the beginning. I told him that the answer had gone with review process.

    I'm still left wondering why people sometimes don't want to indulge into accepting temporarily an hypothesis when it clearly helps making a point. It's not as if speculation was cast for four generations, it was speculative under immediate investigation.

    I still think we have to work out an "editing agenda" with regard to speculation in discussions in science. If a little bit of speculation is not allowed, discussion is just restating the results at worst, or refilling an introduction with a small extra bit at best. Seems like a dead end to me.

  • pyrope says:

    I've had an EIC insist that refs be cut to save space. We had a lot of refs to begin with because the paper combined a lot of topics, but cutting from 80 to 50 undermined the context of the discussion IMO.

  • Jim Thomerson says:

    The best review I have received went something like this:

    I am sorry to say I have lost the manuscript you sent for review. The paper is very well written; the science is well done and important. The paper is perfect for the journal. I strongly recommend it be accepted for publication without revision.

  • AD says:

    "I still think we have to work out an "editing agenda" with regard to speculation in discussions in science. If a little bit of speculation is not allowed, discussion is just restating the results at worst, or refilling an introduction with a small extra bit at best. Seems like a dead end to me."

    ^^^ I totally agree! My PI always removes some parts of the discussion from my manuscript saying its speculation. I never understood what was wrong with a little speculation based on immediate results that could get readers thinking.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    The PI likely asks you to remove speculative comments that she feels are obvious reviewer bait. Fine line between over negotiating with yourself and avoiding predictable annoyances.

Leave a Reply