Peer Review Anonymity

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Wed Nov 1 17:20:44 EST 1995

On 1 Nov 1995, Graham Clark wrote:

> <berezin at (Alexander Berezin)> wrote:
> -You may say, how about all the crackpot crap, etc ?
> -This problem has to be dealt with at the editorial 
> -level, prior to the revieweing.

> You indicate that you would accept editors eliminating "all the crackpot 
> crap, etc". What is that if it is not peer review? Then we are only
> talking about the form it will take, are we not?

No, it is not peer review. It is simply some common
sense safeguard against obsenities, libel, political
extermism or whatever you name. Any publisher is
certainly ought to check against these things.
But to give you a bit more room on this, I won't
actuallt insist too strongly that even what appears
to be a "crackpot" stuff should be fully rejected : 
for me the best solution (compromise, if you wish)
will be to let "crackpot" short version (say, 1 or
2 page + reviewrs comments, if they wish to make
any). There is always a chance "crackpot" may indeed
be on something. 

And this chance is not that negligible. For example,
something similar happened just in early 1970s with 
Michael Feigenbaum, one of the main founders of the 
chaos theory. All his papers were consistently rejected 
by all journals over the course of several years. 
Finaly, he mangaed to publish something in the obscure 
local journal and the ball rolled over.

So, be generous to crackpots. After all, much
(if not most) of progeress come from their side.
Remember Alfred Weneger : his idea of continental
drift was seen as nonsense by (almost) all 
geological community for several decades (I don't
remember exactly, but recalling that he has died
as a "crackpot" for what [ now ] will be a sure

>  Personally, I would
> rather have a peer, who actually works in my field, than an editor 
> evaluating my work.

Why do you need peer to nurse your work ? Are 
you not confident enough in yourself ? Suppose,
you are given a choice between two options:

(A) your paper goes through the anonymous 
peer review, and can be delayed or rejected.

(B) it goes straight to the press (subjected
to just a minor technical editing).

What option you prefer ? A or B ? Why ?

Of course, if you want some colleaguel input - for
the purpose of comments, lucidity, etc - you can always
do on your own - and you know much better who
of your colleagues will be the best for this
task. By the last reason this is self-arranged "peer 
review" will be much more quality efficient. 
(but formally it should be, of course, optional for
you to do it - if you don't want your work should
go straight). 

> -The above (30 reviews per year) shows an enormous
> -waist of the your time taking the fact that the
> -eventual efficiency of the whole process is almost
> -nil (by the reasons I explained). Undoubtedly, you 
> -would prefer to spend it on your own research. 

> Actually, I view it as a privilege to be asked to serve the scientific
> community in this way. Pity you don't feel the same.

Certainly, it is your right to feel proud that you do
participate in this activity (to serve as anonymous 
reviewer). The point I am raising here, however, is that 
neither you [ nor anyone else for this matter ] has so
far presented a single convincing agrument that such 
activity does in fact improves anything ("quality of 
science", say).
You do not provide input to the authors of the 
(paperback) books or movie directors before they 
realeased their products. Why science is
different ?  

Why do scientists (collectively, more-or-less) believe
that they are intellectually handicapped, so they do 
indeed need some kind of a nursing care (peer review)
before they dare to deliver their products to the
"consumers" (the readers of the journals).  

Alex Berezin

> Graham
> ________________________________________________________
> C. Graham Clark, Ph.D.
> Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases,
> National Institutes of Health,
> Bethesda, MD 20892
> Ph.: 301-496-4740
> FAX: 301-402-4941
> e-mail: gclark at

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