In the middle of a busy, newsy week, that also saw a Science Writing and Career Workshop, a Conference Proceedings publication and some travel, I happened to receive a poem from Biswapriya B. Misra, who works in the genetics department of Texas Biomedical Research Institute, San Antonio, Texas, USA.
“The Peer Review Hymn”, needless to say, caught my attention immediately. Biswa has been a long-time reader of Nature India and we also featured him on our Away From Home series earlier (Living with Plants).
Here’s Biswapriya Misra‘s guest blog — his views on the peer-review process (he also rustled up this cartoon to go with it!) and the tongue-in-cheek hymn:
To an early career academic, the peer-review process both reflects and sums up his/her life. For someone who has published decently and reviewed enormously, I feel that the current academic set-up over-relies on publications in terms of number and quality. On the other hand, reviewers are burdened with so much to review and publish that the process might suffer many times. Peer review as a process may not be perfect but is the only time-tested one.
On a more personal note, performing sound science, going through steep learning curves of data handling, analysis, interpretation, visualization and the very process of authoring and co-authoring manuscripts can be very painful. On the other hand, as a reviewer, reviewing papers is a really enjoyable work, given that we are always good at critiques!
Submissions are journal-specific and formatting the citations is the most boring — how we wish all journals adopted a universal citation format! Passing through a technical editor’s criteria can be challenging at times — no matter how accurately one follows the author instructions. A good cover letter that ensures an impact on the Editor is also another big challenge!
This satire tries to sum up the plight of an author and his/her anxious state of mind during the peer review process.
The Peer-Review Hymn
Oh my dear, oh my peer,
Oh my dear Peer Reviewer,
Gatekeeper of my precious career,
Please forgive that tiny mistake,
For, my career is at stake.
Formatting, and reformatting text till I blurred my sight,
Cropping images over many a night,
Following your journal’s instructions so tight,
Please do not reject my manuscript outright!
The PI was running low on resources,
Dear reviewer, please accept my excuses,
I was unable to perform your suggested experiments,
And my entire group will vouch, and still laments.
The data was not ‘garbage in and garbage out’,
Stats have helped me win this tough bout,
No oranges were compared with apples,
Even though the controls look just like samples!
Took me years to convince my PI,
He did not like my experiments or even stop by,
But now, as his name and reputation are on line,
He wants all credit supposed to be mine!
Oh Ghost Author, oh Ghost Author,
Never heard of you until we uploaded the paper,
Where were you, and foremost, who are you?
Do us a favour, and please decline to be there, will you?
Oh Reviewer, oh Reviewer One and Two,
Please write at least a paragraph – a line or two?
If my effort has taken 3 years to come about,
Will you be a wee bit interested to read it out?
Praying hard to avoid Reviewer Three,
Who has a reputation to reject for free,
No matter what the first two say,
He has to put his nose in the way, anyway!
Oh Editor, oh Editor, Once you have seen the review,
Hope the readers do not have to pay-per-view,
Whatever the form — single, double or blind,
Peer-review is vital for the scientist’s soul and mind.
Please let me out of this situation,
I want to survive until graduation,
Still churning out papers to get tenured,
Oh Reviewer, oh Journal, I shall come back, be assured.
This New Year I shall have new resolutions,
Ready with exact answers and replies to suggestions,
Shall make a career out of these, and more publications,
Building on my PI’s reputation and connections.
Oh journal, Oh journal,
I shall be loyal to you till my funeral,
Please accept my investigation,
For the peace of my soul and for my salvation!