Friday, December 11, 2009

Scientific Peer Review Process

This will be funny if it isn't true. I go through the same whole charade all the time whenever I submit my manuscripts to the journals. Some reviewers are just plain sadistic assholes hiding behind a cloak of anonymity in asking me to "run more control experiments", while others are clueless idiots who don't know shit about anything in the field yet still want me to "strongly suggest that" I cite their irrelevant papers in my work if I want to get the paper accepted. But hey, we live in an imperfect world, and academia has too many egoistic jerks masquerading as professors and journal editors.

Sometimes I feel myself becoming one of those I despised when I am asked to peer review manuscripts. Oh the irony!

(2 Mar 2010): Cover Letter with Manuscript Revision (Humor for Academics if you haven't yet realized)

Dear Sir, Madame, or Other:

Enclosed is our latest version of MS #85-02-22-RRRRR, that is, the re-re-re-revised version of our paper. Choke on it. We have again rewritten the entire manuscript from start to finish. We even changed the goddamned running head! Hopefully we have suffered enough by now to satisfy even your bloodthirsty reviewers.

I shall skip the usual point-by-point description of every single change we made in response to the critiques. After all, it is fairly clear that your reviewers are less interested in details of scientific procedure than in working out their personality problems and sexual frustrations by seeking some sort of demented glee in the sadistic and arbitrary exercise of tyrannical power over hapless authors like ourselves who happen to fall into their clutches. We do understand that, in view of the misanthropic psychopaths you have on your editorial board, you need to keep sending them papers, for if they weren't reviewing manuscripts they'd probably be out mugging old ladies or clubbing baby seals to death. Still, from this batch of reviewers, C was clearly the most hostile, and we request that you not ask her or him to review this revision. Indeed, we have mailed letter bombs to four or five people we suspected of being reviewer C, so if you send the manuscript back to them the review process could be unduly delayed.

Some of the reviewers comments we couldn't do anything about. For example, if (as reviewer C suggested), several of my ancestry were indeed drawn from other species, it is too late to change that. Other suggestions were implemented, however, and the paper has improved and benefited. Thus, you suggested that we shorten the manuscript by 5 pages, and we were able to do this very effectively by altering the margins and printing the paper in a different font with a smaller typeface. We agree with you that the paper is much better this way.

One perplexing problem was dealing with suggestions #13-28 by reviewer B. As you may recall (that is, if you even bother reading the reviews before doing your decision letter), that reviewer listed 16 works the he/she felt we should cite in this paper. These were on a variety of different topics, none of which had any relevance to our work that we could see. Indeed, one was an essay on the Spanish-American War from a high school literary magazine. the only common thread was that all 16 were by the same author, presumably someone reviewer B greatly admires and feels should be more widely cited. To handle this, we have modified the introduction and added, after the review of relevant literature, a subsection entitled "Review of Irrelevant Literature" that discusses these articles and also duly addresses some of the more asinine suggestions by other reviewers.

We hope that you will be pleased with this revision and finally recognize how urgently deserving of publication this work is. If not, then you are an unscrupulous, depraved monster with no shred of human decency. You ought to be in a cage. May whatever heritage you come from be the butt of the next round of ethnic jokes. If you do accept it, however, we wish to thank you for your patience and wisdom throughout this process and to express our appreciation of you scholarly insights. To repay you, we would be happy to review some manuscripts for you; please send us the next manuscript that any of these reviewers sends to your journal.

Assuming you accept this paper, we would also like to add a footnote acknowledging your help with this manuscript and to point out that we liked this paper much better the way we originally wrote it but you held the editorial shotgun to our heads and forced us to chop, reshuffle, restate, hedge, expand, shorten, and in general convert a meaty paper into stir-fried vegetables. We couldn't or wouldn't, have done it without your input.

[Name Removed for Blind Review]

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Difference between going to Business School vs going to Graduate School

A JC classmate and I graduated from college the same year. He went on to Business School two years after I started Grad School, and received the MBA 2 years before I got my PhD.

He is now at a major investment bank that survived the bank failures of 2008 and is set to receive record bonuses for this year. I am an academic postdoc, and have just received email from Payroll that my income for the next year 'may be subject to a temporary reduction due to the extreme financial emergency facing the University'.

His base salary alone is about 4 - 5 times what I am earning now. Sure we can both say our work suck, but hey at least he's better compensated than me, and he has bonus payouts. I will be lucky if I don't get a paycut.

We had identical O- and A-level grades. Such is life and the options we chose earlier have financial consequences.