Sunday, September 23, 2007

What I read before I write a review

Writing an anonymous scientific review can make even the tamest human take a jab or two at their blind-folded peer. Because of this, I'm a fan of moving towards open peer review where we can treat each other like humans.

I noticed this aggressive tendency in myself when I first started being asked to write reviews four years ago. To make sure I don't step beyond where I'd like to be as a reviewer (i.e. critical and honest but not aggressive), I read the following text before starting and before submitting every review.

When reviewing papers

  • don't be evil
  • start with a compliment
    • say the positive general comments before you say the negative general comments. If you don't have positive comments, read it again. The editor probably wouldn't give you total crap.
  • don't nitpick too much just to feel powerful
  • try to say things you'd like to be told if it were your paper (i.e. comments to strengthen the manuscript not belittle the authors)
  • number the comments so the authors can easily refer to them if they resubmit
  • don't be evil

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