Date: Mon, 15 Jul 2002 12:11:32 +0200
From: Hans Ulrik Riisgaard <>
Subject: Re: VS: JARO peer review
Cc: Ole Nsbye Larsen <>
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Dear Dr. Santos-Sacchi,

With great interest, I have read your comments to the ARO members about the peer review system (forwarded to me by my colleague Dr. Ole Nsbye Larsen). You say that you want to have a discussion at the ARO about requiring reviewer identification for your societal journal JARO, and you claim that this could make a big positive change in science.

In MEPS, we are currently discussion the peer-review system, see the debate:  - see also the link to printed article: "The peer-review system: time for re-assessment?"

As it appears, the proposal you want to bring up at the ARO has already been discussed - and rejected. However, I should like to invite you to express your opinion in the MEPS DISCUSSION FORUM. If you want to contribute to the debate which have many different aspects, please send your text - as brief and concise as possible - to me.

Kind regards,
Hans Ulrik

Dr. Hans Ulrik Riisgaard
Marine Biological Research Centre
University of Southern Denmark
Hindsholmsvej 11
DK-5300 Kerteminde
Tel/Fax: +45 6532 1433
Home page:

Ole Naesbye Larsen wrote:

Kre Hans Ulrik!Mon dette indlg ville vre noget for din fortlbende diskussion af peer review-systemet? Her er jo et helt andet forum end marinbiologerne men problemerne synes at vre de samme.HilsenOLE
-----Oprindelig meddelelse-----
Fra: Joseph Santos-Sacchi []
Sendt: 14. juli 2002 17:19
Til: ARO members
Emne: JARO peer review
Dear ARO members,

I am writing to you about what we can do to ensure the health of the journal peer review system, which is necessary to maintain high quality publications. My concern is that too often (especially in a small field) careless reviewers slow down the progress of science. I will use some of my own experiences as examples to highlight this point.

In 1995, we submitted a manuscript to Neuron which presented some novel pieces of information on stretch sensitivity of the outer hair cell lateral membrane motor, now known as prestin. Two reviews were obtained; one was nicely done with specific comments and questions on problems and suggestions for improvement. The other review was outrageous, stating that there were too many problems and inaccuracies to list. In short, no review was done, only a demand for rejection. As is usual, the editor simply trusted the reviewers comments and rejected the manuscript. I was upset by such treatment of the peer review system. Needless to say, I wrote to the editor that this was unacceptable and that I had never had a reviewer refuse to review a paper of mine! I do believe that the editor was embarrassed that such a thing could happen, but in Neurons case this was sufficient for rejection. Months later the manuscript was published in the Biophysical Journal.

A few months ago, we submitted a paper to Science where a reviewer claimed that we had made substantive errors in reasoning because the scale bar in a figure was unlabeled instead the calibrations were written in the legend which the reviewer missed because he did not read the legend. Again the editors blindly accepted this and other absurdities of the reviewer! Of course, in Sciences case this was sufficient for rejection.

Most recently, we submitted a paper to JARO where one reviewer overwhelmed me with brazen statements that clearly indicated that he was unaware of the literature. This time, the problem was too close to home. I wrote to the editor detailing each inaccuracy and conceptual flaw of the reviewer, hoping to convince a bright editor that the chosen reviewer was inept or possibly purposefully in error. Despite some email interactions, nothing came of the matter.

Events like these lead me to wonder what might happen if reviewers had to identify themselves. I suspect that those reviewers who are honest and sincere would have no problem, but those cavalier few would think twice before producing brazen remarks, perhaps even refusing to review good news. Peer review is very important; I look forward to getting insightful remarks from reviewers so that my papers are made better. I have no problem being rejected if there are problems that I missed. I would prefer this over publishing inaccuracies. However, I reserve the right to respond to the editor if I find reviewer errors. If a reviewer were identified, then either the reviewer could respond to the queries of the author or the author could request in subsequent submissions that he not be used as a reviewer. This is so important in a small field like ours.

I bring this up to you so that we might have a discussion at the ARO about requiring reviewer identification for our societal journal JARO. I think we could make a big positive change in science if we championed this modification to peer review. I am interested in your opinions pro and con.

Joe Santos-Sacchi

Joseph Santos-Sacchi, Ph.D.
Dept. of Surgery (Otolaryngology) and Neurobiology
Yale University School of Medicine
BML 244
333 Cedar St.
New Haven, CT 06510
203-785-7566 (office)
203-785-5407 (lab)

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