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How to Reject a Paper: Advice from a Chain Letter
Category: A funny thing happened on the way to the academy Wobosphere Silliness Posted on: November 3, 2009 1:17 PM, by Blake Stacey

Today CBSG continues with its pointers for budding scientists with the second part on serving as a peer reviewer for papers and grants.
Okay, you've decided that you are going to reject a manuscript. The naive reviewer might think that it is enough to simply state the reasons for the rejection as clearly and succinctly as possible. But this overlooks a major issue: ensuring that the authors do not know that it is you who rejected the manuscript.

Because the peer review process is anonymous, this may seem like no concern, as long as you extirpate all references to your own work to keep your identity secret. Wrong! You have to keep in mind that no matter how crappy the paper is, the authors are going to be pissed that it is rejected, and they are going to immediately begin wracking their brains to identify referees who might have done the dirty on them. Most will form a list of at least 5 or 6 people that they think are likely to have screwed them. Since most papers are reviewed by no more than 2-3 reviewers, this means you have a good chance of being on the list even if you were NOT the reviewer. Thus, particular pains must be taken to direct the authors ire elsewhere. Several different means to accomplish this are described below:

1. Pretend that you are British. (Note this does not work well if you actually are British).

Just a few decades ago, it was enough to include a liberal sprinkling of "rathers" and "doubtlesses" throughout the review, and convert all colors to colours, analyze to analyse, polymerize to polymerise, etc.


I started doing this when I got my newest computer. Somehow, Firefox got installed with the English-English spell-checking dictionary, and compared to reconfiguring software, adding a letter here or there was a mere bagatelle.

However, the increasing intellectual and cultural cross-pollination brought by the internet has rendered such limited measures ineffective. Thus, you need to be au courant with all the most specific idioms available to the average Brit.
For example, you might want to refer to a poorly run gel as being "dodgy", "gammy" or "a bit pear-shaped". Especially effective are slang terms derived from cricket. This is because no self-respecting American knows anything about this sport (indeed, outside the British Commonwealth, cricket is universally reviled as the one sport even more boring than baseball). Here are some cricket-based phrases worked into sentences that you might include in a review. Instead of writing "Some of the data presented by the authors are mutually contradictory" write "The authors seem to have gotten themselves into a bit of a sticky wicket".

Instead of writing "The documentation of morpholino efficacy by monitoring expression of exogenously provided target rather than the endogenous target is not quite fair" write "Using GFP-ponticulin as a read out for the morpholino effects is not quite cricket". And, instead of writing "I was chagrined to see that the authors ignored the previous studies by the Jones lab", write "the failure of the authors to cite the seminal studies of Jones and colleagues hit me for six".


"While technically correct, the limited scope of the authors' results makes them rather small beer."

1B. Pretend that you are an American pretending to be British (Note: this does work if you are British, but does not work if you are American.) The strategy here is similar to #1 above, but instead of being a little bit subtle, you go straight over the top. Thus, instead of writing "I seriously doubt that anyone will believe ...": "Blimey! Blokes would have to be right daft if they were to believe ..."
2. Pretend that you are Canadian. This is harder because the only major language difference between Americans and Canadians is that the latter tend to mispronounce words with the short O sound such that they rhyme with newt. Needless to say, this sort of thing is not manifest in written reviews.

However, the canny reviewer can draw on the one or two features of Canadian culture that are unique. Interestingly (in light of the cricket discussion above) most of these revolve around Canadian football. For example, you might allude to a paper not being ready for the Grey Cup yet (a reference to the Canadian equivalent of the Super Bowl), describe an experimental situation as being "3rd and long" (an allusion to the fact that there are only three downs in Canadian football) or argue that the authors need to "bring in a couple more coaches" (referring to the fact that Canadian football teams have 4 head coaches). Cite obscure Canadian journals: "J Can. Med. Assoc." or "Can. J. Cardio." No one outside of Canada reads these journals.


They're still better than those Australasian journals.

3. Pretend that you are German. This is even harder, because even if you know some German, you have to write your review in English for most journals. Be extremely precise and technical. You could also try simply putting the verb at the end of your sentences (as in "The experiments in figures 5 and 6 should repeated be"), however this runs the risk of having yourself labeled not as a German, but as an imbecile or an incarnation of Yoda. Alternatively cite organic chemistry articles from the late 19th and early 20th century that have never been translated into English. Cite German aricles during the 30s and 40s when the rest of Academia was trying its best to ignore German science.
Too soon?

3B. Pretend that you are an American pretending to be German; sprinkle the text with flavorful comments such as "Ach mein lieber!" or "Du spinnst!" Or, if a line of reasoning is particularly awful, "Ist gibt ein Blutbat en der Hoelle!" Stick umlauts on random words, and make liberal use of the eszett. Downside: the editor will conclude you have flipped.

4. Pick one of the people from you own list of 5-6 enemies and pretend to be that person. Heavily cite their work. Reference their obscure conference presentations. Arrogantly suggest that person's methods in favor of the methods used in the paper, especially where they are clearly inapplicable. :rolleyes:

-Maddie-

Maddie on Nov 5 2009, 06:52 PM said:

How to Reject a Paper: Advice from a Chain Letter
Category: A funny thing happened on the way to the academy Wobosphere Silliness Posted on: November 3, 2009 1:17 PM, by Blake Stacey

Today CBSG continues with its pointers for budding scientists with the second part on serving as a peer reviewer for papers and grants.
Okay, you've decided that you are going to reject a manuscript. The naive reviewer might think that it is enough to simply state the reasons for the rejection as clearly and succinctly as possible. But this overlooks a major issue: ensuring that the authors do not know that it is you who rejected the manuscript.

Because the peer review process is anonymous, this may seem like no concern, as long as you extirpate all references to your own work to keep your identity secret. Wrong! You have to keep in mind that no matter how crappy the paper is, the authors are going to be pissed that it is rejected, and they are going to immediately begin wracking their brains to identify referees who might have done the dirty on them. Most will form a list of at least 5 or 6 people that they think are likely to have screwed them. Since most papers are reviewed by no more than 2-3 reviewers, this means you have a good chance of being on the list even if you were NOT the reviewer. Thus, particular pains must be taken to direct the authors ire elsewhere. Several different means to accomplish this are described below:

1. Pretend that you are British. (Note this does not work well if you actually are British).

Just a few decades ago, it was enough to include a liberal sprinkling of "rathers" and "doubtlesses" throughout the review, and convert all colors to colours, analyze to analyse, polymerize to polymerise, etc.


I started doing this when I got my newest computer. Somehow, Firefox got installed with the English-English spell-checking dictionary, and compared to reconfiguring software, adding a letter here or there was a mere bagatelle.

However, the increasing intellectual and cultural cross-pollination brought by the internet has rendered such limited measures ineffective. Thus, you need to be au courant with all the most specific idioms available to the average Brit.
For example, you might want to refer to a poorly run gel as being "dodgy", "gammy" or "a bit pear-shaped". Especially effective are slang terms derived from cricket. This is because no self-respecting American knows anything about this sport (indeed, outside the British Commonwealth, cricket is universally reviled as the one sport even more boring than baseball). Here are some cricket-based phrases worked into sentences that you might include in a review. Instead of writing "Some of the data presented by the authors are mutually contradictory" write "The authors seem to have gotten themselves into a bit of a sticky wicket".

Instead of writing "The documentation of morpholino efficacy by monitoring expression of exogenously provided target rather than the endogenous target is not quite fair" write "Using GFP-ponticulin as a read out for the morpholino effects is not quite cricket". And, instead of writing "I was chagrined to see that the authors ignored the previous studies by the Jones lab", write "the failure of the authors to cite the seminal studies of Jones and colleagues hit me for six".


"While technically correct, the limited scope of the authors' results makes them rather small beer."

1B. Pretend that you are an American pretending to be British (Note: this does work if you are British, but does not work if you are American.) The strategy here is similar to #1 above, but instead of being a little bit subtle, you go straight over the top. Thus, instead of writing "I seriously doubt that anyone will believe ...": "Blimey! Blokes would have to be right daft if they were to believe ..."
2. Pretend that you are Canadian. This is harder because the only major language difference between Americans and Canadians is that the latter tend to mispronounce words with the short O sound such that they rhyme with newt. Needless to say, this sort of thing is not manifest in written reviews.

However, the canny reviewer can draw on the one or two features of Canadian culture that are unique. Interestingly (in light of the cricket discussion above) most of these revolve around Canadian football. For example, you might allude to a paper not being ready for the Grey Cup yet (a reference to the Canadian equivalent of the Super Bowl), describe an experimental situation as being "3rd and long" (an allusion to the fact that there are only three downs in Canadian football) or argue that the authors need to "bring in a couple more coaches" (referring to the fact that Canadian football teams have 4 head coaches). Cite obscure Canadian journals: "J Can. Med. Assoc." or "Can. J. Cardio." No one outside of Canada reads these journals.


They're still better than those Australasian journals.

3. Pretend that you are German. This is even harder, because even if you know some German, you have to write your review in English for most journals. Be extremely precise and technical. You could also try simply putting the verb at the end of your sentences (as in "The experiments in figures 5 and 6 should repeated be"), however this runs the risk of having yourself labeled not as a German, but as an imbecile or an incarnation of Yoda. Alternatively cite organic chemistry articles from the late 19th and early 20th century that have never been translated into English. Cite German aricles during the 30s and 40s when the rest of Academia was trying its best to ignore German science.
Too soon?

3B. Pretend that you are an American pretending to be German; sprinkle the text with flavorful comments such as "Ach mein lieber!" or "Du spinnst!" Or, if a line of reasoning is particularly awful, "Ist gibt ein Blutbat en der Hoelle!" Stick umlauts on random words, and make liberal use of the eszett. Downside: the editor will conclude you have flipped.

4. Pick one of the people from you own list of 5-6 enemies and pretend to be that person. Heavily cite their work. Reference their obscure conference presentations. Arrogantly suggest that person's methods in favor of the methods used in the paper, especially where they are clearly inapplicable. :D

hi Maddie...and welcome to the forum...even I don't read these obscure canadian journals...:lol:...and until now, I still don't get this our mispronunciation of the short o for which we are so maligned....funny read though...

-casandra-

hi Maddie...and welcome to the forum...even I don't read these obscure canadian journals...:lol:...and until now, I still don't get this our mispronunciation of the short o for which we are so maligned....funny read though...


Pfft. Americans say "abowt," Canucks say "aboot." Really. I work for one. He even types "eh" in his emails. :D

-lab rat-

lab rat on Nov 6 2009, 04:34 PM said:

hi Maddie...and welcome to the forum...even I don't read these obscure canadian journals...;)...and until now, I still don't get this our mispronunciation of the short o for which we are so maligned....funny read though...


Pfft. Americans say "abowt," Canucks say "aboot." Really. I work for one. He even types "eh" in his emails. :lol:

I really don't think that it's aboot ::D.....it's just dragged out a little bit longer than how you yanks say yours.....more like abawooooooot...and the classy ones will seldom say eh....that's a bit rednecky....eh? ppfftt...B)...

-casandra-


I really don't think that it's aboot ::D.....it's just dragged out a little bit longer than how you yanks say yours.....more like abawooooooot...and the classy ones will seldom say eh....that's a bit rednecky....eh? ppfftt...:lol:...


I'll tell him that. B) I'm not sure I qualify as a "Yank," but you're definitely right that we don't drawl it as much.

-lab rat-

lab rat on Nov 6 2009, 04:51 PM said:


I really don't think that it's aboot ::D.....it's just dragged out a little bit longer than how you yanks say yours.....more like abawooooooot...and the classy ones will seldom say eh....that's a bit rednecky....eh? ppfftt...:lol:...


I'll tell him that. B) I'm not sure I qualify as a "Yank," but you're definitely right that we don't drawl it as much.

oh, anyone who hails from south of the border is a yank...;)..and oh yeah, tell him that...but is he cute and nice at least (if his pronunciation is hopeless) ?

-casandra-

I disagree--anyone from the NE is a yank. The rest of us is just Americans. :D

Er, I decline to answer your questions for professional reasons. :lol:

-lab rat-

lab rat on Nov 6 2009, 05:04 PM said:

I disagree--anyone from the NE is a yank. The rest of us is just Americans. :lol:

Er, I decline to answer your questions for professional reasons. ;)


Oh you don't want to incriminate yourself, eh? :D....hmmm..but I can connect dots and that's rare for a canuck...usually, we're really nice people...and where's NE? How many complex demographic groups do you have? So we make it super simple and call everyone yanks....B)...and that's usually an endearment....

-casandra-

NE = Northeast states.

I strongly recommend that you do not visit the deep South and call the Americans you find there "Yanks."

Canucks will probably relate best to Midwesterners or people from the mountain states. These people are pretty laid back. I can't really say for the West coast.

-lab rat-

lab rat on Nov 6 2009, 11:14 PM said:

NE = Northeast states.

I strongly recommend that you do not visit the deep South and call the Americans you find there "Yanks."

Canucks will probably relate best to Midwesterners or people from the mountain states. These people are pretty laid back. I can't really say for the West coast.

:P...I've been to the deep south LaRa...more pretty laid back over there unless you get lost in the back roads and enter hick country then the ride and your visit gets pretty much exciting and you're right...you can't call them yanks :D.....and I was just teasing you about the NE tho....it depends too which canucks you're talking about cos we're also a bit diverse- esp those from the pacific northwest- it's because of the weather I believe...

-casandra-
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