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The long and thorny road is not necessarily bad

Posted by PLOS_CompBiol on 26 Feb 2008 at 15:06 GMT

Originally submitted as a Reader Response on 29 December 2007

I think it is fair enough that work of non established researchers is more critically reviewed. An established scientist also has his reputation at stake, when he submits his work for publication. So, we should not try to change the status quo in this regard.

Submitted by: Gajinder Pal Singh
Occupation: Ph.D. Student
Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, New Delhi, India

One means towards "fair" peer reviewing

PLOS_CompBiol replied to PLOS_CompBiol on 26 Feb 2008 at 15:07 GMT

Originally submitted as a Reader Response on 4th January 2008

Rosalyn Yalow may have shared Gajinder Pal Singh’s view in principle, but for reasons which are cited in my short contribution to PLoS Comp Biol and not for being "fair".
Indeed, I would challenge that it is “fair”, let alone appropriate in quite a few instances, to review work submitted by non established researchers more critically.

To help with the, admittedly difficult, task of reviewing anyone’s material with equal care one may try to 'blind' him- or herself and to judge data and words rather than authors when assessing possible strengths and weaknesses of a manuscript. Some journals (for instance, EPIDEMIOLOGY) have this as a principle, i.e., potential reviewers do not receive information on the authors and their affiliations.
Granted, you may be able to make good guesses at the identity of the author(s), for instance, by looking at the cited literature or recognizing how the material is interpreted and written but 'being blinded in this way' can be one means to the end of an appropriate and, ultimately, fair peer review which works for quite a few of us.

Submitted by: Thomas C. Erren
Occupation: MD, MPH
Institute and Policlinic for Occupational and Social Medicine, University of Cologne

I agree with the author.

PLOS_CompBiol replied to PLOS_CompBiol on 26 Feb 2008 at 15:09 GMT

Originally submitted as a Reader Response on 12th January 2008

Critically reviewing an article by an young investigator is justified, what is unjustified is being soft towards established scientists. An article by an established scientist may, though not necessarily, guarantee the relevance of the work presented, but it hardly tells anything about the fairness of the data. Fairness can never be anticipated with scientific establishment of a scientist. Needless to mention that science is not an individual's job, it is a collective effort and who among the authors can go unethical and unfair with the data is hard to make out by just looking at PI's integrity.

Another probable reason, in my personal opinion, to such harsh rejections could be the network of established scientists in a particular field. Obviously, a paper by an youngster in that field will be reviewed by few of these big guns, who will better like to reject the paper in first place itself since the field is being ruled by them. In this view, I strongly believe that the "double blind" approach in the review process should be encouraged by the journals.

Submitted by: Kuljeet Sandhu
Occupation: Graduate student
Uppsala University