Venting Reviewer Comments

It is much easier to be critical than to be correct.
Benjamin Disraeli

A short side-conversation while waiting for a presentation yesterday reminded me of the destructive effects reviewer comments can have on promising scientific careers. Personally, I don’t understand why editors don’t filter hurtful reviewer comments and request a revision of the peer-review itself, and not just of the submission.

Anyway, the associations running through my mind included, among others:

  • this brilliant article that I have recommended a couple of times: Trafimow, D., & Rice, S. (2009). What if social scientists had reviewed great scientific works of the past? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 4(1), 65–78.
  • a nice compilation of rejection letters famous authors got: Bernard, A. (1990). Rotten Rejections. A Literary Companion. Wainscott, NY: Pushbart Press., and
  • this brilliant New Yorker Cartoon.

But given that hurtful reviewer comments are a very emotional issue, the thing that was running an endless loop in my mind was actually this sequence from a movie (subsequently found on YouTube, uploaded by secretmike558, I hope it stays online for a while):

A bit childish? Yup.

Will it work due to the catharsis hypothesis? Probably not.

But can it make you smile? 🙂


P.S.: While merit should count in science, unfortunately it’s a human enterprise. The community does matter (read more in this series). And before you join the current trend to see science as a sexist “old boy’s club”, it’s not a matter of being male or female — I have the same problems. You’re pretty much fucked without a good supervisor who shows you the ropes (not in the literal sense).

P.P.S.: By the way, the comments I receive on this blog are 99.9% great comments. There are over a thousand so far (1012 in fact), and while probably half of them are my replies, I really love the constructive feedback I’m getting. I’ve also implemented a pretty … aggressive spam filter. If it got your comment, drop me an eMail at danwessel at organizingcreativity onedot com .