ABT Reviews

Ross Koning koning at ECSUC.CTSTATEU.EDU
Fri Jul 9 13:59:32 EST 1999

At 2:20 AM -0400 7/9/99, David Hershey wrote:
>ABT needs one or more Associate Editors to share the workload. ABT did
>have an Associate Editor a few years ago.

Hi David!

I noticed in the last issue, the editor included a page
requesting volunteers to review manuscripts with a check-off
for the area of expertise.  This is probably a good idea
and perhaps some of us should be sure to return the form.
My only authorship in ABT was a refutation article spawned
by another botanical manuscript with what were obviously
misconceptions too.  We need diligent folks to step up at
ABT to be sure the articles are of high quality. I agree
with you, David on your comment below:

>In my experience as both an author and reviewer, peer review is not what
>it is cracked up to be. Few reviewers are going to spend the time needed
>to thoroughly review and improve another person's manuscript. Reviewers
>frequently do a cursory job. Often, the most in-depth reviews are ones
>by a reviewer who clearly wants to kill the manuscript by finding as
>many imagined flaws as possible. Those kind of reviews are not very
>useful to an author. I have also seen abuses where three reviewers were
>used and a simple majority ruled even if the dissenter correctly pointed
>out major problems with the manuscript. I think a better approach might
>be a review panel of dedicated experts rather than a large pool of peer

I must say, though, that I wish we were both wrong about
reviewers. Professionalism in manuscript review should be
one of our top priorities as scientists. It degrades the
work of ALL of us if flawed articles are published. It calls
into suspicion even the BEST work published. I have reviewed
many manuscripts and have spent many hours on each one trying
to help the author(s). I have usually found enough to recommend
publication after thorough revision...but I have also been
disappointed to read the published articles to find some of
my "major" criticisms unaddressed in the revision that was
accepted by the editor. It makes extra work, but in a few
cases I was asked to look over the revision prior to acceptance
to be sure my points WERE considered by the authors.  I thought
that was a good policy...but it does give a reviewer almost
a kind of "veto" that can be abused by a despicable reviewer.

In our electronic world, it seems that we SHOULD be able to
have a panel as you suggest circulating a manuscript prior
to publication. But a chain is always no stronger than its
weakest link and it is so easy for people to volunteer for
such positions and then pass the manuscript on to the next
expert hoping that s/he will do the job right. The panel
needs to be really conscientious and communicative with each
other. The editor still needs to be diligent in monitoring
the panel.

To me ABT is a VERY IMPORTANT JOURNAL as what we find in it
will leak into High School classrooms nationwide. If we put
junk into this journal, then our incoming college students
will have minds full of junk for us to dismantle.

Jerry Baker's junk on music and plants is a good example
of trash that has become propagated through the education
system. We are all having to dissuade teachers, students, and
parent project mentors of this idea. This misinformation has
created a HUGE amount of work for us...people want to believe
everything they read.  Publishers need to be careful...we
need to be vigilant.


Ross Koning                 | koning at ecsu.ctstateu.edu
Biology Department          | http://koning.ecsu.ctstateu.edu/
Eastern CT State University | phone: 860-465-5327
Willimantic, CT 06226 USA   | fax: 860-465-4479

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