The purpose of writing GrandeTheorye scientific review articles

October 22, 2012

The sole purpose of generating a review article that lays out your GrandeTheoryeEleven in the biomedical sciences is so that you can try to take sole credit for ideas that occur to many members of your subfield who are following the same literature that you do.

Please note that Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine are not generally handed out for review articles.


No Responses Yet to “The purpose of writing GrandeTheorye scientific review articles”

  1. Pascale Says:

    I thought those were requested to increase the IF for the journal…


  2. pinus Says:

    So you saw my most recent review! please cite!


  3. profguy Says:

    I guess you must have read something that got your goat.

    I’m not in biomedical, but in my field I would say that review articles serve some very useful functions – not least of which is helping to educate those who are not quite yet up to “following the same literature that you do” – and that we don’t have enough of them.

    The conventions of what reviewers will allow in standard research articles are very narrow. Reviews allow for a broader exposition and perspective. Sure, maybe some authors use them to take more credit than they deserve, but that just means the competition should write their own reviews.


  4. Grumble Says:

    I am astonished. You are basically saying there is no such thing as an original idea. Or at least that it’s impossible for an original idea to show up in a review article. Sheesh, did a review article bite you when you were a child?

    And even if the ideas in a review are not original, if a review cites sources (and, um, reviews are usually FULL of citations of sources), it’s patently absurd to criticize the author for “trying to take sole credit.”


  5. I ike Grumble. S/he makes my heart happy.

    Review articles are like pitbulls.


  6. Alex Says:

    I’m in a subfield where people are busy reinventing a bunch of wheels, so I’m working on a review article that amounts to “The wheel: It exists! You want spokes? Those exist. You want rubber tires? Those exist too. You want spinning rims? Already on it! Stationary rims? Been there, done that. You want two of them? Four of them? 18? Just one? See references 50-52, 53-56, 57-60, and this photo of me on a unicycle. So, yeah, enjoy those wheels. And pay attention to the fact that some of the tires get punctured more easily than others.”


  7. qaz Says:

    Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn, DM. That’s the stupidest statement I’ve ever seen. What got into your oatmeal?

    True theory papers change how people have been looking at their own data. Often, after a GrandeTheorye Paper(TM) scientists change what they claim they’ve been arguing for years. But a careful reading of the earlier papers makes it clear that they were arguing for a different interpretation. A good GrandeTheorye Paper(TM) includes all the references and serves as both a unification and a source of tracking down the original literature. Often it brings together two or more experiments and/or theories that were thought incompatible. There are a number of explicit cases in several of the fields that I work in where the GrandTheorye paper changed how experiments have been done since.

    The problem is that a lot of Review papers are written as if they were Theory papers, but they’re just reviews. Real theoretical neuroscience entails synthesis and novel viewpoints.

    There are three steps to a novel theory: (1) No way. (2) That’s what I meant. (3) We’ve known that forever, there’s nothing new here.


  8. Beaker Says:

    There are two sorts of review articles. The first is a short dispatch-type advertisement for Your Favorite Ideas–often with no mention of other people’s experiments and ideas that shaped your Favorite Idea. This type of review is snapshot of the moment, and a waste of everybody’s time in the long run.

    The second type has traditionally been called the Scholarly Review. These are provide comprehensive views of a field, with copious citations. This type of review has great values–probably more valuable, on average, than a primary research article. One example of this is Berridge and Irivne’s IP3 reviews in the 1980s. These are the most cited articles of their time, and they guided the explosion of research in that area at the time.


  9. neuromusic Says:

    Please note that Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine are not generally handed out for review articles.

    TED Talks, on the other hand, require no data.


  10. Says:

    The purpose of writing a review article that lays out your “Grand Theory” is so that people can read (and cite) one comprehensive article, instead of hunting through all the individual papers in which you introduced bits and pieces of the Grand Theory as you were discovering them.

    In neuro, Gilles Laurent’s stuff is a case in point – you can read a mountain of CNS papers from the same lab, or one or two review papers. What would you choose?

    Also, a Grand Theory can sometimes be introduced directly by a review article. It’s rare, but it happens. Let me direct you to the normalization model of attention, a review-cum-Grand-Theory paper that has basically redefined the field (neuroscience of visual attention).


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