A rant about reviewing manuscripts

I’ve reviewed two papers in the last few weeks from relatively respectable journals. One is a second revision after the first major revision, and one is new to me. But both are unsuitable for anything submitted to any journal. For the revision, the first review I had nine pages of comments, reviewer 1 had 2 pages, and reviewer 3 opted to accept with no revisions. I found a myriad of spelling and grammar errors. The science was okay, but there was no viable discussion about the usefulness or comparisons to other work, weaknesses of the study, or even properly labeled figures. This is a paper that would have gotten a failing grade in any class taught by anyone. How did the other reviewers not pick things up? Were they intending on someone else picking this shit up? Then now on the second review I realized that I even missed a glaring mistake in an equation they used resulting in invalid results. They will have to redo a lot of their analysis and I’m certain the other reviewers will not pick this up.

These kind of lackluster reviews and horrible science that some PI thought suitable to submit to a major journal make me weep for academic science. We need to start actively calling out this shit and editors need to realize when reviewers are phoning it in. We have enough people questioning our science, why give them more reasons? We are all busy, and we are all stretched thin. If you can’t give a thorough review, then don’t offer to review a paper. That’s it for this rant.

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