Thursday, July 7, 2011

Declining to Review

Over the past few days, I've had a few requests to review show up in my inbox. I accept that reviewing manuscripts is a part of my academic service and it's something you're supposed to do for the good of the global community. There is also some personal benefit because reviewing other work helps you critique your own and makes you a better writer. Unless I am travelling, I have always accepted the reviewing assignments I'm given.

Except today...

This was a fortunate case (for me) where you can see the manuscript in its entirety prior to accepting/declining to review. Some journals only let you see the abstract and then it's more difficult to decide because the abstract may sound like it's in your area but the manuscript is actually not in your area. (On a side note, I have had this happen several times and it's a bitch to do a good review.) Being able to see the manuscript in its entirety was crucial. From reading the abstract, I thought "Hmm, well this is definitely my area. Guess I have another one to add to my pile." Once that PDF was on screen, it was an entirely different story.

After skimming and picture hunting, the manuscript failed to pass any of the normal publication requirements like does this really need to be published, is the topic/data highly relevant, and isn't this just combined piecemeal from multiple places? So I took the easy way out and just said "Nope, not reviewing". I feel bad about it because I'm shirking my duties as an academic but it would have (at best) been annoying and time consuming to review.

So, for any of you out there that have done a lot of manuscript reviewing, how often does this come up for you? What do you end up doing? Is it right or wrong to just decline to review because at first glance you think there's no shot at getting it published?


  1. Just remember, when the journal DOES publish it, you'll be angry and pissed off that the editor and other reviewers are incompetent boobs. And you'll have no one but yourself to blame.

  2. well let's hope it doesn't come to that...

  3. why didn't you just send in your review to the editor that it was not publishable? Isn't that a review?

  4. It is a review but I don't think it is giving the manuscript a completely fair chance. If you're going to review something, then you should point out specifics where the article falls short.

    In general, I could point those out the overall issues with publishing the work but I didn't really want to take the time to go through it with a fine-tooth comb.

  5. The worst thing is when you reject a manuscript, spend a bunch of time explaining why you rejected it, and then get it back as a revision with most of your comments ignored.

    In your case, it is probably better to write a short review rejecting the manuscript ala Gerty-Z. A lot of half-assed reviews don't wield the reject button properly.