As a part of the very funny
#MelodramaticLabNotebook hashtag on Twitter I Tweeted this the other day:
At last we meet, reviewer 3, if that is indeed your real name #MelodramaticLabNotebook
— Jason McDermott (@BioDataGanache) August 20, 2013
Which went mini-viral and got me the most retweets I’ve gotten for any Tweet to date.
Yes, reviewer 3. The arch nemesis of authors of scientific papers. The queen/king of rejections. (for non-science-y types, see my explanation of the basics of peer review below) For some reason it seems that reviewer 3 has gotten a bad name. It’d be interesting to actually look at the data here, but the review process is mostly private, so I think that’d be difficult. My guess is that reviewer 3 is generally a tie-breaker. A pinch-hitter brought in by the editor to break the impasse of having reviewer 1 give a positive review and reviewer 2 give a negative review. Reviewer 3 may have a bad name since it may be easier to see the points of the negative reviewer, rather than being swayed by a positive review. I don’t know- I’m just guessing.
Anyway, back to me. One response to my Tweet was this gem. Alex Cagan drew this comic visualization of my Tweet, which is completely awesome.
I needed a new science awesomeness t shirt so I took Alex’s design and made it into a t shirt on CafePress (currently on it’s way to my house!). You too can sport this wonderful creation if you’re brave enough.
A (very) brief overview of peer review process for scientific papers
So for those not familiar with the process of scientific publication here’s a brief summary. This is how it generally works in biology/chemistry/physics but there are exceptions. A researcher completes a scientific study and wants to (needs to) share it with the greater scientific community. This is generally done through a myriad of scientific journals that publish these kinds of papers. The researcher writes up the study into a manuscript and submits it to a relevant journal. An editor at the journal then sends the paper out to peer reviewers, other researchers who have the expertise to evaluate the study and manuscript to see if it’s acceptable for publication. These are generally anonymous reviewers and this is done on a volunteer basis (i.e. the journal does not pay reviewers to review). Most journals solicit two reviews. If the reviewers agree to reject or accept the paper then the editor will generally go along with that. If the reviewers are split then the editor can make a decision in cases where they feel that it is merited, or they can send it to another reviewer. Some papers can be reviewed by more than three peer reviewers- not sure why this happens.