Year's Best Peer Review Comments: Papers That "Suck the Will to Live"

By Jennifer Welsh | December 15, 2010 10:29 am

peer-reviewPeer review: love it or hate it, it’s an integral part of every scientist’s life. The reviews are usually kept secret, but the editors over at Environmental Microbiology like to give a little back during the holidays, and have gifted the internet with a list of some of their favorite quotes from peer reviews done this year:

Our referees, the Editorial Board Members and ad hoc reviewers, are busy, serious individuals who give selflessly of their precious time to improve manuscripts submitted to Environmental Microbiology. But, once in a while, their humour (or admiration) gets the better of them. Here are some quotes from reviews made over the past year, just in time for the Season of Goodwill and Merriment.

Here are some of our favorite catty reviewer quotes from this year’s list:

  • This paper is desperate. Please reject it completely and then block the author’s email ID so they can’t use the online system in future.
  • The biggest problem with this manuscript, which has nearly sucked the will to live out of me, is the terrible writing style.
  • Ken, I would suggest that EM is setting up a fund that pays for the red wine reviewers may need to digest manuscripts like this one. (Ed.: this excellent suggestion was duly proposed to the Publisher. However, given the logistical difficulties of problem-solving within narrow time frames, combined with the known deleterious effect of transport on good wine, a modification of the remedy was adopted, namely that Editors would act as proxies for reviewers with said digestive complaints.)
  • I agreed to review this MS [manuscript] whilst answering e-mails in the golden glow of a balmy evening on the terrace of our holiday hotel on Lake Como. Back in the harsh light of reality in Belfast I realize that it’s just on the limit of my comfort zone and that it would probably have been better not to have volunteered.
  • I suppose that I should be happy that I don’t have to spend a lot of time reviewing this dreadful paper; however I am depressed that people are performing such bad science.
  • The presentation is of a standard that I would reject from an undergraduate student. Take Table 1: none of the data has units or an explanation. Negative controls gave a positive signal, but there is no explanation of why and how this was dealt with; just that it was different.
  • The lack of negative controls. . . . results in the authors being lost in the funhouse. Unfortunately, I do not think they even realize this.
  • Reject – More holes than my grandad’s string vest!
  • The writing and data presentation are so bad that I had to leave work and go home early and then spend time to wonder what life is about.

Hit this link to view the whole long list. Can’t get enough? Check out last year’s picks.

Related Content:
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Discoblog: What Kind of Peer-Review Would Jesus Want?
80beats: ClimateGate Inquiry: No Scientific Misconduct From “Squeaky Clean” Researchers
The Intersection: Citizens Against Peer Review
Gene Expression: Peer review sucks?
Not Exactly Rocket Science: Arsenic bacteria – a post-mortem, a review, and some navel-gazing

Image: flickr / gingerpig2000

  • Jenn

    Some of these phrases need to become internet memes.

  • Jumblepudding

    I want to read the paper the first quote is referring to. Hopefully my untrained eye could detect the desperation and glean some schadenfreude.

  • Robert E
  • http://www.aschoonerofscience.com Captain Skellett

    Seems like questioning the meaning of life, depression, and losing the will to live are symptoms of peer review. Perhaps someone should study THAT.

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