Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Reviewer

From a recently discovered draft of Prof. Jonathan Edwards’ (D.Div, Harvard) exhortation to junior profs revising their dissertations at the Collegiate School in New Haven, CT in early 1741. Some scholars are of the opinion that Prof. Edwards later revised the speech for presentation to a non-academic audience in the same state, but, given the probability of any academic being able to write a book that gained traction among the mythical “educated public,” this seems extremely doubtful.

…This that you have heard is the case for every one of you that is without tenure. That world of misery, that land of eternal visiting lectureships, is extended abroad under you. There is the visible flames of the wrath of an angry Reviewer; there is the mouth of Adjunct Hell laid open; and you have no publications to stand upon, nor good reviews to take hold of; there is nothing between you and this Hell but the air; it is only the power and mere pleasure of the Dean that holds you up. Continue reading

Peer Review: It Ain’t That Hard, People!

No, really, it isn’t.  I swear, though, if there were a university publisher equivalent of College Misery, bad peer reviewer stories would keep the place running.  All we want is a 5 page, double-spaced book report—and the first page or so is pretty much padding.  Any of your grad students could do this.  Heck, you ask more from them when they do lit reviews.  Is it really too hard to read a book in your obscure specialty (we picked you for a reason, after all!) and toss off an undergrad seminar paper on it?  It would take you a weekend.  You’re an expert, this should be easy—otherwise, we wouldn’t ask you to do this! Continue reading

Reviewing Reviewers

I’m going to grab my fiddle while people are setting fires and ignore the whole Finch Report Open Access bomb that’s blowing up right now.*  Suffice it to say, I need to finish reading all of it (I don’t do journals right now, so only about thirty pages are of more than academic interest to bookies like me) before I act like I have something intelligent and novel to say about it—but, worry not, I will talk about it.**

Instead, let’s talk about something that’s tangential to the whole Finch Report/Open Access debate: the institution of peer review.  Yes, a lot of people aren’t too keen on it (“why are we paying for this, again?”), but for those of us who publish things, it’s important.  Sure, it’s the gold standard, sure, it’s an assurance of quality—but for us, if it doesn’t pass peer review, we don’t have to waste good money publishing it. Continue reading