Thursday, 13 March 2008

The double-blind peer review system

I bumped into a chap I know last night, a fellow historian, and he told me a funny story.

He recently submitted an article to a journal, and it was sent off to be reviewed. For those who don't know how it works, the editors of the journal send the article to two reviewers, without revealing the identity of the author. They review the anonymous piece and send it back to the journal. The journal forwards the two responses to the original author, maintaining the anonymity of the reviewers.

Anyway my friend is rather well-known in a very specific field: his first book won a major prize, and has been published with great success in translation as well as selling well in the original. Let's call him J. Alexander, purely hypothetically.

One of the two reviewers wrote a positive report making some useful and constructive suggestions as to how the piece might be improved. The other, after beginning with "I have only one criticism to make" launched into a three page hatchet job. Towards the climax of this assault, the reviewer helpfully asked "Has this author even heard of J. Alexander? I strongly recommend that he go and read that historian's seminal work before attempting anything further in this field."


Henry Ford said...

This is basically pure gold.

ginkers said...

I don't know why but this reminded me of a story my dad tells about going into a fish and chip shop in Edinburgh and asking for a fish supper.

One of the owners, not realising they were dealing with a Scottish Italian, shouted to the person serving.

"Daglielo riscaldato!" (Give him it reheated!). Thinking my dad would not understand.

To which my father replied: "No, dammelo fresco!" (No, give me a fresh one!) Which raised a few eyebrows and got him a good fish supper.

A.Ruiz said...

the system works!