11 comments

  1. Review of “So you think you can publish in a high-profile journal”

    Editor,

    My chief complaint is about Figure 1. While it is clearly conveying a useful point, there is a glaring omission. I don’t see a spike in probability at the far left side of the horizontal axis, with the label “Just plain wrong but topic is trendy.” The glaring omission of this signal suggests something is wrong with the author’s measurement procedure. I must recommend rejection of this cartoon. It is not suitable for Glamour.

  2. I must agree with Reviewer 3.
    Since the author clearly falls in that first huge dip on the right side Fig. 1, something else is almost certainly missing here, even if I cannot quite put my finger on it. Maybe there are other ways to draw this, but the author did not discuss that. Maybe the novelty of the result is questionable – I am pretty sure I overheard this discussed somewhere before, although I cannot exactly remember where. Either way, although this work certainly contains some useful insight, I am not comfortable recommending it for Glamour, because I am not certain that the author really knows what she is doing. On top of that, I do not believe that this topic will appeal to the wider scientific audience (as only a small percentage of the research community is likely to care). Therefore, I think that this work is more suitable for a specialized journal.

  3. I just realized that my review is self-refuting: Obviously the figure is just plain wrong, because it does not include the just plain wrong but trendy papers that get into Glamour. However, publication metrics are a trendy topic, so this erroneous cartoon ought to be accepted.

    OTOH, there’s a female PI, so maybe that cancels out “just plain wrong but trendy.” Unless she had a gray-haired male collaborator. However, I see no second signature on the cartoon. So I guess my recommendation still holds, despite erroneous reasoning. Such is the “quality” of the reviewing that a female author can expect.

  4. @nicoleandmaggie, no worries, it will stay up!

    @Alex, er, Reviewer 3: If you hadn’t rejected the cartoon but recommended a “revise and resubmit,” in the response letter I would have argued that the objective quality of a paper which ultimately turns out to be wrong is far below average and thus outside the horizontal-axis limits depicted in Fig. 1. But now I will never get a chance to respond!

    @Tigerlilly: although this work certainly contains some useful insight, I am not comfortable recommending it for Glamour, because I am not certain that the author really knows what she is doing… Therefore, I think that this work is more suitable for a specialized journal.

    Them gals better know their place!

  5. Thanks for the comic, it sure was funny as much as it addresses a serious point. But I have a severe problem with it:

    What it should contain is a different publication probability curve for each of the mentioned author groups, with a steep climb to 1 earlier and earlier the older and white-maler you are. (Unless the meaning is to impy that these people are consistently writing at a certain level and no other group is – for example, exactly the people who are rising dude stars write at level mean + sigma.)

  6. Betty, of course you are right. But the thing is, a joke should not have too many moving parts or multiple punchlines.

    For instance, the peak that Alex mentioned about erroneous but trendy papers should be somewhere, but that’s really a completely different punchline than the one about bias/privilege and high-impact publications. It would deserve its own cartoon.

    What you mentioned amounts to having a separate probability vs quality curve for each type of investigator; each curve would be smooth, like the envelope of the red curve. Then the point would be in showing that for different types of PI the saddle point (where the second derivative of probability vs quality is zero; let’s say that happens when probability equals 1/2) is at a different paper quality (e.g. happens at lower quality for BigWigs than a junior or female PI). That sounds like it would be a fair depiction, but… Maybe the BigWig curve should rise extremely steeply while the female PI curve doesn’t reach unity until very high qualities? Is it discrimination or do women really just write worse papers than BigWigs..? Anyhow, imagine that graph with four smooth curves slightly offset from one another along the horizontal axis and perhaps having different slopes; now look at the red curve in the cartoon above, with these dramatic peaks and dips. Which one do you think packs more punch while actually delivering the message? (The message being that as a woman or junior PI you are if fact disadvantaged in the high-stakes publication game.)

    Btw, it’s funny that I seem to be undergoing actual peer review of the cartoon! Many requests for revisions! 🙂

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