When a person submits a paper to a refereed journal, the paper is
received by a managing editor (usually -- for some this step is
skipped) who forwards it to a subject editor. The subject editor has
a string of reviewers. These are persons who have published enough to
have some level of established expertise/reputation. The degree to
which that is true will vary from journal to journal, and from editor
to editor, but ideally, the reviewers know what they are doing. They
(we) are honest and ethical.
Usually two or three reviewers receive the paper. There are specific
guidelines for review, but mainly they involve the interests of the
readership, the editorial policy of the journal (what kinds of stuff
do we publish?), the scientific merit of the work (does it ask
interesting questions, does the work answer the questions asked and
resolve the hypotheses proposed or make a contribution toward that
end), is the work well done -- for example are the statistical tests
used appropriate and the design rigorous?), clarity of communication.
The reviewers forward their analysis and recommendation regarding
publication to the editor from whom they received the assignment. The
reviewers are not identified to the author(s), but authorship may be
known to the reviewers, depending on the policy of the journal
(imagine if reviewers were known, and the author was the unibomber!).
Most journals that publish in areas of direct interest to the list
members do make the author's names and affililations known to the
reviewers. I have advocated that author's names and affiliations be
unknown to reviewers, but that has not come to be. Reviewers are not
paid for this work. Large journals may pay editors expenses, but
seldom pay salary to editors.
The system works. Reviewers have an interest in the progress of
science. Are there abuses? Probably. But a lot of the stories
of "So and so reviewed my paper and cut it to ribbons because it
doesn't agree with his theories, or because he wants to do the work
himself" are not just exagerated, but mostly simply ill-concieved
complaints by junior people, who eventually grow up. I know. I went
through that phase myself as papers were rejected and I had to do a
lot of further work to become a competent scientist. Being one who is
cynical by nature, it was easy for me to fall into that trap.
Remember, that patent clerk was not just some obscure joe who sat down
and threw some stuff on paper one night. He was the product of the
finest physics programs in the world, the physics community knew,
through his universities, his previous work, and the paper was
brilliant. That he was a poor student and unemployable in physics are
myths. The job of patent clerk was a respectible job in Switzerland
(a center of physics research and intellectal ferment at the time) and
it paid the bills.
BTW, the physics community has almost abandoned the traditional
journal approach to publication of current work in favor of electronic
publication. They even revise already (electronically) published
papers rather than publish new ones, and the revisions are considered
by their institutions as being academically reputable. Nothing like
this has surfaced in biology. We do have e-journals, but traditional
processing seems to be the norm for those journals as well as the
David L. McNeely
"Where are we going?" "I don't know, are we there yet?"
----- Original Message -----
From: Irate Mormon <archimedes-in-bayspringstel.net>
Date: Monday, August 21, 2006 11:32 pm
Subject: RE: NANFA-L-- Suction - I know, I know...
> Is it still possible for, say, a patent clerk, to publish a paper on,
> say, The Photoelectric Effect, in a scholarly journal? Or has Big
> Education shut that down?
> Sarcasm - just another free service I offer!
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/ This is the discussion list of the North American Native Fishes
/ Association (NANFA). Comments made on this list do not necessarily
/ reflect the beliefs or goals of NANFA. For more information about NANFA,
/ visit http://www.nanfa.org Please make sure all posts to nanfa-l are
/ consistent with the guidelines as per
/ http://www.nanfa.org/guidelines.shtml To subscribe, unsubscribe, or get
/ help, visit the NANFA email list home page and archive at