A couple of years ago, we had a discussion of “Philosophy Journal Horror Stories“. Most of the experiences shared were from the perspective of authors. But authors aren’t the only participants in the academic publishing system with complaints (from which we might, one hopes, learn something).
Won’t someone think of the poor reviewers?
Seriously. Though much-more complained about (112 comments) than appreciated (24 comments), peer reviewers play an essential role in the publication of academic articles and books. Yet we haven’t paid much attention to what counts as appropriate treatment of reviewers and their work.
This post was prompted by an email from someone who refereed a manuscript for a journal and was dissatisfied with the editor’s failure to take seriously a problem with it that he pointed out in his report. He says:
I recently reviewed for [a journal], recommending something in between a rejection and an R&R. The author was given a chance to revise the manuscript and after revisions the editor asked me to either accept (with minor revisions) or reject. The author was not able to deal with the issues I raised and so I recommended rejection.
The paper was later accepted in a form close to the original submission. While it is fine that an editor disagrees with an individual reviewer’s judgment, I had noted a number of errors in the way the author described the literature and as far as I can see none of them were addressed. I later confronted the editor on this point and his simple response was that I was the only one raising this concern and that there could be reasonable academic disagreement in this case. I though this was shocking and as I told the editor: my claims could have easily been verified (or, for that matter, proven false) and if the editor doubted what I was saying, they could have simply asked me for textual evidence.
It seems to me as if this is a problematic decision by the editor irrespectively of whether I was right or wrong about this factual claim. That is, if a reviewer claims that the literature is misrepresented, should the editor not take this seriously enough to verify the claim?
Readers are welcome to share their own bad experiences as reviewers, reflect on the experiences others share, and discuss norms for how reviewers and their work should be treated by editors and authors. But first let me include a passage from the previous post on journal horror stories:
Before we begin, now would be a good time to invoke my multi-purpose adage, “philosophers are people, too.” That includes the philosophers who are the editors of and referees for academic journals. People make mistakes, people have multiple demands on their time, people get tired, and so on. Further, these people are often volunteers or inadequately compensated, adding to their busy lives the various responsibilities of maintaining a significant portion of our professional ecosystem. So even when we may be sharing stories that reveal their imperfections, I think it is important to register appreciation for all the work they do.
OK. Let ‘er rip.
Related: “Citing the Referees at the Journal that Rejected You“, “Citing (and Thanking) the Referees at the Journal that Rejected You, Part 2“, “A Public Database of Referee Service“, “The BJPS Referee Of The Year Award“, “How Bad Is Reviewer 2, Actually? Data from a Philosophy Journal“, “The Best Reviewer/Editor Comments You’ve Received“, “The Worst Reviewer/Editor Comments You’ve Received“, “An Objection Does Not A Rejection Make“, “Referees With Attitude Problems”