Friday, January 28, 2011

Figures make the world go ‘round

One of the fundamental aspects of academic research is publishing. And it is the author’s responsibility to make things “relatively” easy for the reviewer. Aside from a terribly written paper, there’s nothing worse than referring to a figure/setup/design in the text that’s not there.

For example, I recently reviewed a paper where the authors described the design of a system and adjustments to an overall schematic, yet show no figure. Believe me, it definitely needed a figure. After trolling through two references, I managed to find said schematic but correlating the changes to the original was a pain. How hard would it have been to say “the extra widget here allows for more travel and this do-hickey’s placement was adjusted from a previous design [ref]. The updated schematic can be seen in Figure X”. That makes life a lot simpler for the reader reviewer. (Remember, no one’s going to read it if it doesn’t get past review…)

In this particular case, it was even more frustrating because the author (from their Scopus record) has numerous publications in reputable journals. If this was a graduate student working on their first publication, a reviewer like me might be a little bit more lenient. But from a seasoned author who presumably does reviews of their own, that kind of sloppiness is unacceptable.

I guess the one good thing about performing reviews is you get to vent, that is until things become transparent between authors and reviewers, but I’ll save that for tomorrow.

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