James and the Giant Corn Genetics: Studying the Source Code of Nature

November 4, 2009

How to Maintain Anonymity when Rejecting a Paper

Filed under: Link Posts,research stories — James @ 12:42 pm

Was just forwarded a hilarious post over at scienceblogs. Apparently researchers who are asked to review scientific papers* have to worry about a fair bit about being identified even though comments are supposed to be anonymous…especially if the researcher in question is giving the paper negative reviews.

Many specific fields of research aren’t that big, so an author receiving a paper back with negative reviews can often make educated guesses about who rejected the research he’d spent grant money like it grew on trees, and poured out grad students’ sanity like water to accomplish.

This post proposes a set of tactics for disguising your identity, though not with a straight face. Tactics include: Pretend to be British, pretend to German, pretend to be an American pretending to be German (if you are german), and my personal favorite, pick someone you don’t like and pretend to be them:

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.

*Since the people who work as editors at the various journals can’t be the top experts in every fascet of the scientific work they cover (and even if they could be, leaving the decision on what science was worthy of publication in the hands of so few might make bias a little too tempting.) The solution is to have the scientific merit of scientific publications submitted for publication evaluated by a group of anonymous researchers, working in the same field. This, usually, makes sure the people reviewing the paper are up-to-date on the science and techniques involved, and since different papers are reviewed by different scientists, there’s less danger of personal opinions biasing the direction of published research. This method of evaluating the validity and relevance of scientific publications isn’t perfect, but it’s the best system we’ve come up with so far for advancing the understanding of the scientific community.

1 Comment »

  1. You wacky scientists crack me up.

    Comment by Liza Wheeler — November 4, 2009 @ 4:36 pm

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