Monday, April 19, 2010

An ethical dilemma

Here is a scientific ethical dilemma that came up in conversation recently.  What do you do if you get a positive referee report, but it's clear from the comments that the referee completely misunderstood your manuscript, or basically had no clue at all?  Do you point this out to the editors?  I'm actually a bit surprised that this never seems to come up, given how often people complain about the complementary case of a clueless referee that bashes a paper because of a lack of understanding....


Uncle Al said...

Morality, ethics, curriculum vitae. Management imposes morality to protect itself from underlings. Underlings adopt ethics to protect themselves from each other. A vita is judged by size not content.

Run with the clueless uptick and don't look back. Those who weigh your vita will be clueless in kind. Ethics among your peers, rules of engagement with management. Morality as façade is honored in the breach.

Anonymous said...

First paper I ever submitted was to Nature. This was a bad bad wrong paper and luckily it took a long long time to go through the system. I was a young student and suspected it was bad... but I went with the flow. But there was some editorially glitch and we went back and forth with the referees many many times. We had one favorable referees and two unfavorable.

As the many many (many!) rounds of referring proceeded and the favorable referee became even more enthusiastic, it became clear that he or she had no clue. I am not even sure that he or she was a physicist. They clearly had no idea what was going on. In the end I actually agreed with the unfavorable ones, but luckily the paper was rejected without me having to pull my name off. I thank my lucky stars a few times a year for that rejection!