Is Peer Review 100%?

Here’s a question for all of you journal editors and editorial board members out there. Does every single manuscript that your journal receives get the same peer-review treatment? Is there no pre-screening before stuff gets sent to reviewers, where patently kooky or ignorant contributions are killed on arrival?

Is peer review 100%? Should it be? Would that be a wise way to use a journal’s resources? Discuss.

Comments

  1. #1 Coturnix
    March 15, 2010

    Don’t know, but anecdotally, quackery and pseudoscience submissions (especially in physics) arrive daily to journals and are subsequently, and in crumpled state, used for the basketball practice by the editors. Is that true? I doubt an obvious “yet another perpetuum mobile proof” crap will go farther than the waste-basket in the corner. And that is fine by me.

  2. #2 Rosie Redfield
    March 15, 2010

    In order to select possible reviewers, the editor has to take at least a cursory look at the manuscript. Any hint of crackpottery in the Abstract will usually prompt the editor to check the rest of the manuscript, and if it’s obvious rubbish, send it politely back to the authors.

    But the important word is ‘obvious’; if there’s a chance that the authors are genuinely breaking new ground, the editor will probably send it out for review.

  3. #3 MRW
    March 15, 2010

    Not an editor or editorial board member, but…

    Editors often reject submissions without sending them out for review. All of the specific example I know of were for things like “fit”, but I assume the same happens for obvious crackpottery.

  4. #4 Martin R
    March 15, 2010

    That’s my feeling too — first selection of candidate material for the journal, then peer review. This will no doubt come as a shock to unorthodox thinkers who believe that their ideas are being suppressed by the scientific establishment as a collective. In fact, they are just being suppressed by a few journal editors. (-;

  5. #5 Don
    March 15, 2010

    Martin: I am Editor-in-Chief of a high volume journal. Our editorial board screens every submission and sends to editors, of which we have about 100, approximately 40% of submissions. This 40% will be sent to reviewers who are chosen by the editors. The other 60% are rejected without review.

  6. #6 Martin R
    March 15, 2010

    Woah, you have 100 editors, each of whom cultivates contacts with a stable of reviewers? Impressive!

  7. #7 Eric Lund
    March 15, 2010

    It is well known that GlamourMag editors will often reject a paper without sending it out for review. The usual excuse is that the topic isn’t of sufficient interest to a broad readership–that excuse is vague enough to cover the obvious psychoceramic submissions.

    Certain journals which specialize in short papers will also reject papers out of hand if they exceed length limits by too large a margin. A 50-page manuscript will not be considered by Physical Review Letters even if it is Nobel Prize worthy research.

    As for journals further down the food chain, I don’t know. I assume there are some minimal bozo filters in place, but I am occasionally amazed at what gets past the referees.

  8. #8 DrA
    March 15, 2010

    While acting as a subject editor for a botanical journal, manuscripts that were poorly prepared, poorly written, or simply judged not of sufficient quality were routinely returned of authors without review. Editors should make certain that reviewers don’t have to deal with sloppy, poorly prepared manuscripts. However, none were returned because of conclusions, or the lack thereof, offended my delicate sensibilities.

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