Friday, March 7, 2014

Referee Reports (Lost in Translation)

I’ve come across a wide variety of referee report styles, ranging from holistic, short essay style, to simple list of short bullet points.   Unlike general academic writing, when someone first starts writing reports, often as a graduate student, there is little guidance.  I recall asking the person who asked for the report for some and was given one of their recent reports as a template – I have little doubt that this induced extreme path dependence and that my default template today still reflects this initial observation.

Internationalization and Report Language

I recently came across a HBR article on the difference, across cultures, between what is said and what is heard, and am wondering sensitive this issue is in reading referee reports.  It might explain why I’ve heard complaints that the editorial decision did not match the (perceived) reports.

Popular Fiction as Academic Writing

If Harry Potter Was An Academic Work is a light-hearted take on the peer review process.  I found the following to be particularly insightful.
Dear Dr. Rowling 
I am pleased to say that the reviewers have returned their reports on your submission Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and we are able to make an editorial decision, which is ACCEPT WITH MAJOR REVISION.
Reviewer 1 felt that the core point of your contribution could be made much more succinctly, and recommended that you remove the characters of Ron, Hermione, Draco, Hagrid and Snape. I concur with his assessment that the final version will be tighter and stronger for these cuts, and am confident that you can make them in a way that does not compromise the plot. 
Reviewer 2 was positive over all, but did not like being surprised by the ending, and felt that it should have been outlined in the abstract. She also felt that citation of earlier works including Lewis (1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956) and Pullman (1995, 1997, 2000) would be appropriate, and noted an over-use of constructions such as “… said Hermione, warningly”.

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