I’ve written many times about the tortuous nature of peer-review but it does have a side that can be truly memorable for the right and wrong reasons. Some referees and editors clearly find it liberating not to have to couch everything in science-ese and let their literary side shine through. This can be quite warming and nice, or quite brutal. I’ve submitted the odd little aside to an author or editor that goes beyond ‘normal’ criticism or praise, but the journal of Environmental Microbiology has seen fit to publish some of those that they have been sent. I hope in at least a few cases that the authors never got to see them. Here though, are a choice few:
– This paper is desperate. Please reject it completely and then block the author’s email ID so they can’t use the online system in future.
– Very much enjoyed reading this one, and do not have any significant comments. Wish I had thought of this one.
– Season’s Greetings! I apologise for my slow response but a roast goose prevented me from answering emails for a few days.
– I started to review this but could not get much past the abstract.
– Ken, I would suggest that EM is setting up a fund that pays for the red wine reviewers may need to digest manuscripts like this one. (Ed.: this excellent suggestion was duly proposed to the Publisher. However, given the logistical difficulties of problem-solving within narrow time frames, combined with the known deleterious effect of transport on good wine, a modification of the remedy was adopted, namely that Editors would act as proxies for reviewers with said digestive complaints.)
– I agreed to review this Ms whilst answering e-mails in the golden glow of a balmy evening on the terrace of our holiday hotel on Lake Como. Back in the harsh light of reality in Belfast I realize that it’s just on the limit of my comfort zone and that it would probably have been better not to have volunteered.
Hat tip to Charles Q. Choi for putting me onto this.
Referee’s quotes. 2010. Environmental Microbiology Volume 12, Issue 12, pages 3303–3304