Idle thought

March 6, 2013

Relevant to Sci’s recent ranting about the paper chase in science…

Sorry reviewers, I am not burning a year and $250K to satisfy your curiosity about something stupid for a journal of this IF.

24 Responses to “Idle thought”

  1. AcademicLurker Says:

    In my own biophysics-ish area of science, endless demands from reviewers for more data are not the norm. Sometimes someone wants an extra control done, but from what I read on ScienceBlogs and now on Scientopia, it sounds like in some fields reviewers ask for more data just because they can. Or worse, they feel like they must ask for more data or else they haven’t done a thorough review.

    Is this mostly a physiology/neuroscience thing?


  2. whizbang Says:

    “Or worse, they feel like they must ask for more data or else they haven’t done a thorough review.”

    I am convinced that this is the reason, AcademicLurker. My pubs are all in clinical fields and physiology, and I’ve been doing this for 20+ years now. When I first started, you could design a couple of experiments and, if they told a complete story, get them published. If you failed to examine something obvious, reviewers would ask for that. I cannot remember the last time I had a manuscript that did not include a request for 2 more years worth of experiments, even from the basement journal in my field.

    When I get my present paper ready, it’s going off to PLoS. I am so glad that I’m a tenured full professor and no one gives a rat’s ass about high IF publications for me any longer.


  3. DrClam Says:

    Is this mostly a physiology/neuroscience thing?

    Nope. We see this behavior in Microbiology as well. It’s becoming fairly ridiculous.

    I’m a bit surprised that editors don’t take a common sense look at what’s being asked and dial back some of the demands for extra experiments.


  4. antistokes (allison l. stelling) Says:

    I mentioned in my Response to Reviewers for the PLoS ONE that I was unwilling to sacrifice more animals until the methods I developed with my students had undergone formal review. Sometimes it’s not even a matter of having the cash to do more experiments, it’s a matter of proper ethical behavior when experimenting on animals and humans.

    With all the cross-disciplinary stuff that gets done these days, I think it’s a bit understandable that refs trained outside the field forget- or don’t understand- the sheer amount of effort involved in biology work.


  5. miko Says:

    A lot of the idiotic shit surrounding publishing in bio seems to be absent in physics, thus the relative absence of reviewer experiments and spending considerable space “marketing” the data, and the existence of arXiv.


  6. The Iron Chemist Says:

    It’s in chemistry too. Sometimes it seems as if the ref wants a paper on an entirely different subject. Thankfully, most of the associate editors I’ve dealt with won’t hold people to the more ridiculous demands (“Prove this mechanism! Isolate the transition state!”).


  7. drugmonkey Says:

    Is this mostly a physiology/neuroscience thing?

    No. It’s a molecular biology thing that has been contaminating and perverting all of the rest of science for decades.


  8. zb Says:

    In cognitive neuroscience part of the vicious circle is the interaction between the conclusions being drawn and the experiments being done. Some reviewers are asking for more experiments ’cause the conclusions drawn are bigger than can be concluded from the experiments done, especially an issue at the glamour journals, because if you don’t draw the big conclusions, you can’t be published there. I think the solution is that the conclusions have to be scaled down, rather than that more experiments should be done, but folks want to get into the glamour journals, so they don’t see that as a solution.


  9. Grumble Says:

    So what is the minimum IF that would justify 1 year and $250k? Hmm? O you who disdains GlamourMags and all who publish in them?


  10. drugmonkey Says:

    North of 25


  11. Dude, you made your fucken bed with these dump journals you patronize, so now you’ve gotta sleep in it!


  12. Dave Says:

    Take one look at the EMBO J Review Process Files and it is frightening. For example, see randomly chosen exhibit A:

    Click to access emboj2012340s5.pdf


  13. orballo frio Says:

    I routinely have this problem. It seems that is getting worst and worst every day. One of my last published papers we literally did a whole new year of experiments. It is absolutely crazy!!…and I better don’t start commenting in IF…


  14. Take one look at the EMBO J Review Process Files and it is frightening. For example, see randomly chosen exhibit A:

    What is frightening about that example? They submitted their paper in May, received reviews in about one month, responded to the reviewer concerns with some new experiments and revisions to the manuscript, and got accepted in December.


  15. eeke Says:

    CPP – You forget the first rejection round. It is common for editors to reject a paper and then invite the authors to resubmit anyway. This is when they know that the experiments demanded of them will take more than 3 months (or whatever their “deadline” is for resubmission). I’ve had this happen to me at least twice. Those posted submission dates are bullshit.


  16. antistokes (allison l. stelling) Says:

    Ah, just to weigh in a tad, the follow up article to my first author JACS (a submission for Biochemistry) got killed in review, and for damn good reason. It was not ready for presentation to the community. The peer suggestions were helpful, and quite frankly, not a huge surprise. My PI used them to get more time on the UK laser and do a few repeats and a good isotope experiment, which the PhD student that I trained up and who followed me did. Now, I’m listed as a middle author on the brand new published articles (it took 2 more years of work by new students and postdocs to answer the Qs asked in review on the project I started for the PI as a grad student). This is b/c they are still using a few figures I made for the PI.

    This is how the ACS does business. I’m with DM on molecular biology journals—- {head desk}.


  17. Dave Says:

    What is frightening about that example?

    Seemed to me that reviewer 1 was asking for experiments in a whole new transgenic mouse line (VEGF), which is a big deal to me. Like I said though, random example and not my area so I could be wrong.


  18. Seemed to me that reviewer 1 was asking for experiments in a whole new transgenic mouse line (VEGF), which is a big deal to me.

    The authors did that suggested experiment.


  19. Dave Says:

    The authors did that suggested experiment.

    I know.


  20. And the authors agreed it was an excellent idea.


  21. drugmonkey Says:

    Is there some sort of threshold for time and/or money that can be used to determine what is reasonable and what is not?

    Like I would suggest, for example, that if Berg showed data saying the average R01 resulted in, what, 7 papers +/-2, then a request for a years’ worth of work / $250K as an addition to what the authors clearly thought was a ready-to-publish manuscript is excessive.


  22. Spiny Norman Says:

    “And the authors agreed it was an excellent idea.”

    ROTFLOL. Of course they did!


  23. Ola Says:


    You hit the nail on the head re: animal work. We’ve often been asked to do controls with animals, despite the fact we clearly show there is no rationale for doing those controls. Things such as being asked to test the ability of a drug to block an effect, in a group of animals for which the effect is not there to begin with. When we point out the unethical nature of doing such experiments, they just get pissy and reject, so we usually end up doing it anyway, say “you were right”, and then request not to put it in the actual paper to avoid clouding the story.

    Of course, they also don’t give a sh!t about you going over your animal quotas and having to re-negotiate with IACUC to get more for the next set of experiments. IACUC just luuuuurrrves it when you explain on your annual protocol review that you mis-estimated the numbers you would need and didn’t anticipate extras requested during peer review. Oh yeah, that sh!t goes down real well.


  24. DrugMonkey Says:

    This lack of understanding of how science progresses is a problem with the IACUC. Some discussion about how they would prefer to handle this uncertainty (known unknowns?) is in order.


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