Day: October 15, 2015

Preferred Reviewer

Yesterday I received requests to review not one but two papers co-authored by the same person; the papers are from different journals and on different topics, but that makes 3 papers from the same guy within a month.

Obviously, I am on his preferred reviewer list, which is fine. He works in my field and I am happy to review.

But I am getting a little irritated by some of this colleague’s practices.

First of all, he has a systematic mechanical deficiency in his manuscripts that I think is really just sloppy (he routinely fails to separate units from numbers). In the last review, I explicitly told them to fix it; I figured, if someone had told me that, I would not have just fixed it that one time but I would have also adopted it for the future. Not here. The two new manuscripts I received both have the same stupid typos over and over again, and it really pisses me off. I am not your goddamn maid; if my grad student got back with this sloppy mistake after I had told them to fix it, I would be royally upset.

Another issue is that the colleague, still somewhat junior, spends too much time submitting  MPUs — minimal publishable units. While he writes well, I find myself often struggling to identify what is novel. For instance, much of what he submits is technically sort-of new but I, for instance, wouldn’t publish it. I just don’t think it is important or interesting enough to be communicated to the world when something is a straightforward or trivial extension of what we already know. But then again, I have my own taste in problems, so I try to focus on evaluating what’s in front of me and not the paper I wish he had written. Still, I can’t help but think that all that time and effort could have been better spent

And the last thing is — when you routinely list someone as a preferred reviewer, maybe you should brush up on what they are up to, especially on the topics that are unbelievably closely aligned with what you are currently doing. I am not going to fish for citations in the report, but I will communicate that the list of references on specific problems is woefully incomplete and that they need to do a better job of putting their work in proper context.

If my own student or former student displayed some or all of the tendencies, I would tell them so. But this is a peer, I can’t just give him a stern talking-to, so what does one do? I suppose one lets the colleague make crappy mistakes and then eventually one stops accepting requests to review his work.