Saturday, December 14, 2013

Getting honest feedback

On this blog, I've repeatedly argued that peer review is a net waste of time, basically because it doesn't enforce much quality control, it results in long publication times, and reviewers have seemingly gone mad these days with additional experiments. I say "net waste of time", though, because there are some undeniable benefits. Almost any paper will usually benefit from a well-meaning expert looking through the paper, remarking on which explanations are unclear, which claims are oversold (or undersold), and what further data would be nice to include if you have it.

So if we were to eliminate peer review, where would we get this sort of feedback? Well, ideally, through peer review–that is, actually sending the paper (informally) to your peers and asking for their comments. The problem, of course, is that this is one sort of response:

Hey Arjun,
Nice paper! Very exciting result! My suggestion would be to extend out the discussion a bit and cite these few papers (some papers). Good luck!
Science Friend

The problem, as I've documented before, is that nobody has time to read. But I'm lucky to have some good friends who will actually take the time to read a paper and give detailed feedback. For instance, Hyun Youk (postdoc at UCSF) read over a paper Gautham's about to submit and gave us quite detailed and extremely helpful feedback that really strengthened and clarified the paper, like the best peer review ever. I have no idea how to systematize this (I guess our current peer review system is basically that, but anonymous), but it's got me dreaming of a fantasy world where our friends read our papers and love them and make them better and then we post on ArXiV and all get HHMI funding. Sigh. Now to submit this paper and get ready for a war of attrition with the official "peer viewers"...

No comments:

Post a Comment