It's a Micro World after all is a blog dedicated to discussing pretty much whatever I feel like. When I delve into scientific matters it will primarily be discussing microbiology (agricultural, bioenergy, and environmental focus). Otherwise, I'll probably ramble on about sports and life.
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Ok folks, I just read possibly the worst paper I've ever had the misfortune of being asked to peer-review. To the editor who sent it to me ... you really don't like me, do you? Anyways, here we go ...
1. Don't misspell the word "abstract". I mean, after the cover page, it's the first word on the first page! It's the first thing I read, and when I see that you spelled that word wrong, I am going to automatically assume that there are other misspellings. For you, the manuscript author, this is a bad thing (see #2).
2. I can understand grammatical errors, especially for foreign authors. It happens, and I realize the English language can be complex and hard to figure out. I make grammatical mistakes myself from time to time (I tend to misuse "that" and "which"). However, there is no excuse for spelling errors. Just about every program designed for document generation has a spell checker. If you can't be bothered to take the 10 seconds to spell check, I am going to assume that you are lazy. Lazy is bad, because if you can't be bothered to check the manuscript, what makes me think you bothered to properly design your experiments? That you paid attention to detail ... that you gave a crap about any of the science? It's a rhetorical question because the answer is none. I have no assurance, because what I know about you is that you are lazy.
3. To my current review victim ... I can see what you did, and I can add up how much this study cost you. With all your reagents, it would cost me no more than $400 to do what you've done. Now, money should not be the sole issue that dictates whether I should look favorably on your study or not but consider this. The first method you used to cull your clones for sequencing was a good idea. Problem is, you picked less than three dozen clones to look at to begin with. You could have sequenced the whole darn kit-n-kaboodle at this rate and not bothered with the screen, and probably saved yourself some change. Also, the point for you to do screenings is that you can then get a feel for your OTU's (since this was an ecology paper). The point of figuring out your OTU's is to know if you've sampled enough and captured a good portion of the diversity. I could tell you without looking at the rarefaction curve that with less than three dozen clones you most likely wouldn't have exhausted the samples diversity, but it'd be nice to have confirmation. Doing that curve would have saved your hide! Like I said ... lazy. Heck, you can do that darn analysis in Excel!
4. Just because you found a dozen clones does not mean the gene is abundant in your environment. Are you crazy?!?
5. If you want to show only three figures, don't show me figures which only raise more questions ... like why did you ignore those three other bands on that gel? What the heck are they, do you even care? Lazy, lazy, lazy.
6. A paper, double-spaced at that, that weighs in at four pages of actual text is probably not going to be worth a damn.
7. Am I the only one that gets papers to review where the line numbers are skewed and don't actually seem to line up with the actual text? Who should I be mad at when this happens? The authors or the journal?
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Um ... wow. Abstract, huh?
wow. um, that sounds pretty bad. Is it reasonable to ask how it even got sent out for review?
For point 7 that is the journal's fault. Money should not normally be an issue but you have to do something of some substance in order to publish in today's world.
One of the worst things in the process of manuscript writing is not reading it thoroughly after every revision while writing it. I never did that for my first manuscript. My PI used to pick it very quickly.
I am not doing that mistake anymore though.
I once received a paper to review where the 'novel method' being described was to bash the organism with a hammer. Seriously. This paper also had three treatments, each with an n = 1. I wrote back to the editor who had put the paper out for review and made it very clear that middle school students could do a better job than the authors of this paper. Worse still, several months later I received a revised version of the same paper (with a little more downstream work, but no changes to hammer and n=1 issue, from the same journal. At that point I sent it back to the editor and told her that I refused to be on their list of reviewers anymore because papers that poor should never leave the editor's desk in the first place.
Jade, nope. Though AEM (Applied and Environmental Microbiology) once rejected a paper of mine for being "too applied".