Holiday fun: peer reviewing

Did you not finish all your papers and grants before the holidays? Do you still have papers to review? Dont be discouraged, Twisted Bacteria has posted humorous quotes to cheer you up.

Every December, the journal Environmental Microbiology publishes a collection of quotes made by peer reviewers while assessing manuscripts submitted to the journal. Some of them are hilarious! I am extracting a few of them from the last two years, but I recommend reading them all!

Here you go:

Desperate referees:

This paper is desperate. Please reject it completely and then block the author's email ID so they can't use the online system in future.

The biggest problem with this manuscript, which has nearly sucked the will to live out of me, is the terrible writing style.

The writing and data presentation are so bad that I had to leave work and go home early and then spend time to wonder what life is about.

The finding is not novel and the solution induces despair.

Desperate authors:

WOW! You did 'read it with interest' in SEVEN MINUTES??!! [Ed.: this is an author contribution in response to an editorial decision (rejection) made within 7 min of submission]

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Holiday season:

Done! Difficult task, I don't wish to think about constipation and faecal flora during my holidays!

The peaceful atmosphere between Christmas and New Year was transiently disrupted by reading this manuscript.

Merry X-mas! First, my recommendation was reject with new submission, because it is necessary to investigate further, but reading a well written manuscript before X-mas makes me feel like Santa Claus.

Season's Greetings! I apologise for my slow response but a roast goose prevented me from answering emails for a few days.

Technical issues:

[...] maybe some beetle took a pee on one or the other of the samples [...]

You call the sample fresh water, this is confusing as it is saline water.

The trees are crap but, besides this, excellent work.

Writing style:

You know there is something important there but the language is so inaccessible that you cannot make up your mind if they are trying to hide something or they actually think that is a good style of writing.

This manuscript gets the title 'worst written manuscript of the year reviewed by DJ'

The writing style is flowery and has an air of Oscar Wilde about it.

Great manuscripts:

This is a long, but excellent report. [...] It hurts me a little to have so little criticism of a manuscript.

I perused this manuscript while in the hotel prior to a friend's wedding. I was suspicious that a state of relaxation had influenced my enjoyment of a paper on soil formation; so I read it again, this time squashed between two large people on the delayed flight home, and still enjoyed reading it.

Very much enjoyed reading this one, and do not have any significant comments. Wish I had thought of this one.

It is always a joy to review manuscripts such as this. Well-conceived, well executed, well edited. Clean. Pristine. From start to finish.

Read more here.

- Referees' quotes - 2010. Environmental Microbiology (2010) 12, 3303-3304.
- Referees' quotes - 2009. Environmental Microbiology (2009) 11, 3309-3310.

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Thank you for making me feel better about what my professors say about my research! If people smarter than me get insulted this badly then maybe I'm not doing so bad after all!

Yep, and it gets more and more common. Sure there are some clunker papers submitted, but where has the professionalism gone in the review process?

Recently we had a reviewer tell us that they didn't "believe" that our RNAi lines were really suppressing transcript levels, even though we showed the data from multiple independent lines. Worse, an editor used this as a motivation to decline the work! It was a closed issue too- they didn't want to discuss this. Ugh.

Reviews are getting nasty and are taking a long time. It seems like nobody wants to help shape an article to be appropriate for a given journal, instead they want to beat it to death with a shovel. My postdoc wanted to cry after that one-- she needs pubs to move her career.

We are resubmitting with data from 20 independent lines.

I'm contemplating signing my name on every review when allowed. I stand by and can defend my thoughts, and they usually are critical, yet constructive. That's what I thought we were all supposed to do.