Dear Reviewer ...

Aug 09 2010 Published by under [Et Al]

Dear Reviewer,

In my capacity as associate editor for Journal That Shall Not Be Named, I asked you to review a manuscript and you quickly agreed to perform this task. It seems as though you were too hasty in your actions, however, as you are now more than 3 weeks late submitting your review. I have already sent you two reminder letters and don't want to have to find another reviewer to take your place because you are too damned lazy to follow through on your commitment.

I would rather not have to chase you down and beat you to a pulp with a big stick. Although I will if I have to. Just try me.

Do the damned review and submit the fucker asap or suffer the consequences.

Yours most crankily,


14 responses so far

  • Oh, thank you for following up on incomplete reviews! How often I wish an editor would threaten to beat a tardy reviewer with a big stick. Or little stick. (It's how you use it, after all.)

  • antipodean says:

    Unfortunately the consequences are another cranky email at worst? Reciprocation just ends up hurting the bastard's grad students.

  • Joseph says:

    I wonder if the summer isn't playing a part? I often have noble goals about how I am going to spend time on plane flights and stuff that never quite work out as planned. So maybe (s)he had good intentions but life interfered???

  • GMP says:

    Feeling deep shame right now... I am one of the stick-worthy reviewers: I have 4 manuscripts on my desk, waiting for my review, all overdue.

    Ironically, when you are a prompt reviewer, editors tend to pile on you (no offense, PiT), so you end up being late. I review several papers every week, that's a lot of time... I think reviewing is an important service, but it does get to be too much. As Joseph said, people have good intentions, but other stuff happens.

  • Dr. O says:

    No wonder it takes so long to get papers back...thanks for staying on them PiT!!

  • jc says:

    I know I know! All summer I've been chasing reviewers. Sadly, a stick isn't gonna help you.

  • PiT I sympathize with you. I am about done with well intentioned individuals biting of more than they can chew and leaving me in the lurch. You have every right to be cranky at people who promise and never deliver. Being on the receiving end has taught me to take my commitments seriously and not say yes on a whim. A reviewer should be senior enough in their career to be able to realistically gage new commitments with ongoing and re-occurrent ones - it is just pain rude to say yes and then stress everyone else by not delivering in a timely manner.

  • GMP says:

    it is just pain rude to say yes and then stress everyone else by not delivering in a timely manner.

    Consider this instead -- if people said yes to a review only if they were 100% certain they could deliver by a given date, the editor would likely have to ask 20 people to get 2 to say yes and deliver; that alone would take a very large amount of time. Wouldn't you rather have an occassional reviewer late? Remember that reviewing is an important service, but also a time-consuming activity that does not benefit the reviewer so yes it will get lower priority when more urgent stuff comes up.

    A reviewer should be senior enough in their career to be able to realistically gage new commitments with ongoing and re-occurrent ones

    I think this demonstrates lack of appreciation for how much unplanned yet urgent crap falls in every faculty's lap all the time. The more senior you are, the more crap everyone asks of you, especially service. You constantly have to reprioritize.

    I review on a regular basis for a large number of journals and I try to do a timely and thorough job. Sometimes it ends up not being totally timely. Such is life.
    When I was a student I was always upset about late reviews of my papers; now that I review non-stop, I am no longer upset at people being late as I know what is likely happening.

    In some journals in my field, editors are encouraged to recruit more junior people (e.g. postdocs) as reviewers for precisely this reason -- they are less busy and more likely to review in a timely fashion.

    Another issue: if the paper is poorly written, my opinion is that it can delay the review, as the reviewer will likely try reading it several times, get pissed each time and just leave it for later. I know this happens when I review and several of mycolleagues. So writing a nice readable paper will also increase your chances of getting the review back promptly.

  • Odyssey says:

    Welcome to the wonderful world of editorship! At least he/she agreed to review. My number one issue right now finding people who will agree to review in the first place. I generally need to ask 6-8 people in order to get two reviewers for each manuscript I handle.

    And antipodean is right - our only real stick is the cranky email. Authors are often quick blame editors for the slow review process, but that's often not fair. As GMP pointed out, reviewers receive no credit, so there's little incentive to get things done in a timely manner. And other, more urgent things crop up all the time. All we editorial types can do is send snarky messages when the deadline passes. If that doesn't work I sometimes end up doing the review myself, but that can quickly become an unsustainable burden, and it's not always in the best interests of the authors if the subject matter isn't in my field of expertise. We have no real teeth.

  • antipodean says:

    Good advice GMP

    PiT- Could send reviews back to the homelands this time of year? No fucking summer holidays here right now.

  • Odyssey: I completely agree but it doesn't take much for a tardy reviewer to shoot off a quick email to the editor asking for another day or so. I'm also listing up to 8 people (2 initial invitations plus 6 alternates) as potential reviewers for each paper in the hopes that 2 will agree as I don't want to be going through PubMed every other day searching for more names.

    Fortunately, the second email seemed to do the trick although the review basically said little more than "this was an ok paper."

  • physioprof says:

    I review several papers every week

    That is absolutely fucken ridiculous. You're the one with like a dozen grad students or something absurd, too, right? And who doesn't like being a PI, right?

  • GMP says:

    physioprof, I am basking in the warmth of all the love & admiration you are sending my way.

    PiT, you inspired me to write a longer post here. Cheers!

    I totally agree with dropping a line, though, to say "I'm running late, need more time." Many journals I work with do have an online form where you can request more time.

  • [...] agree to review (and here we’re assuming those two will actually complete their reviews and in a timely manner).** And those lists of potential reviewers authors have to provide when submitting a manuscript? [...]