Friday, November 14, 2008

Publishing manuscript reviews

Well, we have a split vote on the question of whether publishing one's manuscript reviews is an ethical practice or not: 48% say YES, 40% say NO, and 11% say NOT SURE. I personally don't think it is unethical (see Mary Louise Kean's arguments, for example). It may be uncool in some circumstances, but many reviews are also very uncool...

Nonetheless, I'm not going to post the reviews of my mirror neuron critique paper. The good news is, though, that the paper is now accepted and should be appearing soon in Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. A reviewer of the paper was invited to write a rebuttal paper. I hope s/he does. It will be interested to have a public discussion on the issues.

But back to publishing reviews. Just this week I got another nasty review back on another paper, this one related to the hypothesized sensory-motor response properties of area Spt. We have been plugging away for some years now trying to pin down the response properties of Spt and exploring the similarity of this region with sensory-motor integration regions in the posterior parietal lobe. I had listed the range of findings that show parallels between Spt and parietal lobe areas. Here's a comment about our hypothesis from the reviewer:

The analogy with the inferior parietal lobule is not well supported, and its use in framing the arguments of the paper is based on a number of vague assumptions, over-generalizations, and idiosyncratic inferences about the brain that derive from studies produced virtually exclusively in the authors' laboratory.

(Oops. Did I just publish part of a review?)

We of course apologized profusely for citing our own empirical work, which is clearly inappropriate and should be strictly prohibited in scholarly publications. We make no apologies, however, for being vague, idosyncratic, over-generalizers.

So how about we start a Top Ten list of nasty review excerpts? It might be kind of entertaining. I've got two on the board already. Send them to me offline or as a comment.


The Vlad said...

Well, I won't post specific comments from reviewers, but the reviews of a recent paper from a friend were quite amusing, taken together.

Reviewer 1: Accept as-is, award-quality paper

Reviewer 2: Accept with major revisions

Reviewer 3: Reject

The editor (eventually) agreed to see a second version, at which point Reviewer 1 remarked something to the effect that "the authors have fundamentally misunderstood their own work...but I still maintain that it is of award quality."

The paper paper was accepted.

Anonymous said...

I don't think there is an ethical issue. Has anyone ever read/signed anything that reviews are private? Is it some small print I am not aware of perhaps?

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