Paper Reviewing Philosophy

Image of book page from "Opus philosophie naturalis" (1490). Image in public domain and sourced from United States Library of Congress.

Since I've reviewed and also written some papers over the years, I've been thinking about the review process and the role of a reviewer. Of all the papers that I've reviewed, I have never recommended rejection. Here is my philosophy.

Most people who write a paper have something important to share with the world. Only papers that are completely incorrect or are written from a hateful or discriminatory perspective should be rejected. Thankfully, I have never encountered such a paper.

Reviewers should be kind and objective. The purpose of a review is to help improve the paper. Therefore, reviewers should avoid general statements related to how wrong the authors are. Instead, each reviewer comment should be related to how the paper can be modified.

Many reviewers are able to act in an abrasive fashion since the review process is often performed in a secretive manner where the authors do not know the reviewers. Some publications have an open review process where the reviewer can be known to the authors.

If you review a paper, make sure that the review is returned within a few weeks! After all, the authors of the paper may have to wait for months before the paper is finally published. By returning a review promptly, this respects the work of the authors!

The authors of a paper often know more about a certain subject area than the reviewers, and sometimes a reviewer can be wrong. All reviewers therefore have a moral obligation to acknowledge that some reviewer comments in the review can be incorrect.

Although reviewers are not paid, the work done by each reviewer makes the world a better place and ensures that all voices, including underrepresented and marginalized groups, are acknowledged. Again, be kind: the paper might be the first publication of a graduate student!

The geographical place associated with the paper authors is not important: good research can be conducted at universities without large budgets and on kitchen tables or in garages.

Reviewing a paper can take a day or two, so reviewers should be able to list all reviews on a CV. This should also be taken into consideration as part of the official faculty hiring and advancement process.

This article was updated on September 11, 2021

Dr. Nicholas J. Kinar

Dr. Nicholas J. Kinar is a hydrologist and researcher at the University of Saskatchewan. This is a blog of ideas, techniques and things that Nicholas perceives as unsophisticated knowledge in the Homeland of the M├ętis / Treaty 6 Territory / Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada / Earth. His full name is Nicholas John Stanislaus Kinar. This blog of unsophisticated knowledge is intended to document some information that Nicholas finds useful. However, he does not mind if other people might find this information to be useful as well.

Related posts

Concatenating Together PDFs for Academic Papers