Funny Depictions of Reactions to Peer Review

Today I was speaking with my graduate students on the basic format of a peer-reviewed paper, and how following that format will help with the inevitable criticisms that come from peer review. I immediately recalled a very funny animation of how grad students, post-docs, and assistant professors react to negative reviews that I saw awhile back.

Thanks to Matt Craddock, I was able to track it down for my students – and now for you! It’s over on the great Research in Progress Tumblr. This particular post is called We regret to inform you that your paper has not been accepted.

And, yes, that’s the grad student reaction in my opening image. Go over to “we regret to inform you” for all three animated reactions. Really priceless.

But, wait, there are more!

Elizabeth Quinn highlighted a very amusing depiction of the different types of peer reviewers using a Team Fortress 2 video game theme. As someone who has played this game, I immediately liked it. Here’s just one image with the accompanying quote from Peer Fortress: The Scientific Battlefield.

THE PYRO

Reviews from Pyros need to be held in oven mitts.

Your topic is out of scope.

Your writing is terrible.

Your problem is not worth solving.

Your idea sucks.

Your solution doesn’t work.

Your theory is broken.

Your experiments are hopelessly flawed.

Plus, you’re duplicating the classic result from [Smith and Jones, 1955].

In searching some on my own for the handling of peer review, I came across one that uses the internet meme of Downfall – Hitler Reacts. The way the meme works is to take a climatic scene from the film Der Untergang on Hitler’s final days and use the sub-titles to create the parody.

So here’s Scientific Peer Review, ca. 1945:

As if that isn’t enough, there is actually one journal out there brave enough to publish annual highlights of the funny, absurd, and over-the-top things that reviewers actually say in their comments.

Environmental Microbiology features an annual Referees’ Quotes (sadly, I couldn’t find one for 2012!). So here’s Referees’ Quotes – 2011. And some choice quotes:

Our referees, the Editorial Board Members and ad hoc reviewers, are busy, serious individuals who give selflessly of their precious time to improve manuscripts submitted to Environmental Microbiology. But, once in a while, their humour (or admiration) gets the better of them. Here are some quotes from reviews made over the past year, just in time for the Season of Goodwill and Merriment.

• I do not understand why the co-authors of this manuscript have allowed their names to be in the author list.

• It is rare when a reviewer receives a genuinely flawless manuscript to review on an interesting new topic, but the ms by X clearly fits the bill.

• As in many other examples, producing a big dataset of pyrosequencing data does not make a good story. Sometimes I wonder if the ‘wonderful’ old times of serious analysis of 16S rDNA data are over. I am afraid that I am starting to show worrying signs of ageing . . .

• The authors have taken on board my comments from the previous submission of this study. I can only imagine that the previous submission was a pre-submission draft that was accidentally submitted. Or I might just be being nice for once.

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2 Responses to Funny Depictions of Reactions to Peer Review

  1. gtchristie says:

    I wonder whether peer reviews (or reviewers) are susceptible to the cultural influence commonly known as “peer pressure.” That might sound like a joke at first (though I do intend some humor), but seriously — is there not, in the process of commenting on a paper, some awareness by the reviewer of the prevailing wisdom (or opinion) in the discipline at hand? If a researcher managed to reproduce the data and draw the same conclusions as an arguably out-of-favor figure such as N. Chagnon, for instance, would a reviewer feel any pressure to run with a majority view, partly to remain (as a reviewer) within the mainstream? I wonder …

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