Defining Good Reviewers

Nature Medicine includes an editorial entitled Why Review? that characterizes what makes a good journal reviewer (change “journal” to “sponsor” to consider their application to grant proposal reviewers):

  • First, our reviewers know the journal.
  • Good reviewers have the breadth of knowledge and objectivity to be able to determine whether a new finding will be of interest to a broad scientific readership or just to those in the field.
  • And good reviewers are fair and thorough and provide detailed and constructive criticism, allowing authors to improve their papers.
  • At the heart of the process, reviewers must have a passion for their area of research and the desire to help advance their field.

I appreciated the editor’s comment regarding the role of reviewer’s in protecting scientific integrity: “Propagating a wrong idea by publishing a half-baked paper in a high-profile journal can set a field back and waste both time and resources.”



  1. drugmonkey said

    It is amazing to me, just flat out amazing the degree to which Nature (and Science to a lesser degree) staff live in a state of near perfect denial. They opine about how impact factor isn’t everything, the missed Nobel publications, competition, bad stats in papers and now “half-baked” papers.

    They are the PRIME BLOODY MOVERS in perpetuating this stuff!

    If they were serious, they would by absolute fiat starting tomorrow, stop freaking publishing half-baked crap with unsupportable or unverifiable science. They would back away from the “hot n sexy” approach and only publish stuff that was replicated to the Nth degree. They would stop giving in to high-falutin’ PIs who blackmail them into short-circuiting the review process. yes, the high-falutin lab with which I am familiar just pulled this as recently as last week.

    It is one thing to have these bad practices. It is simply laughable to publish editorials which are directed at your own journals’ bad practices and do nothing about it….

    Gee, don’t hold back, Drugmnky, tell us how you really feel. You did notice that this is Nature Medicine … or is the whole family of journals damned? Notice I said I “appreciated” the statement, since it concisely gets the gist of your rant into print, no matter to whom it is applied. – writedit

  2. whimple said

    The Nature series of journal do have an inflated sense of their own importance. If the lot of them were to disappear tomorrow, there would be an interested twitter, and then “the field” wouldn’t even notice they were gone. I wouldn’t go so far as to call them actually evil however. That being said, I think it is general knowledge that most of the scientific literature is either flat-out wrong, or misleading, or irrelevant and people need to excercise their best judgement when reading, and this is no more or less true of the Nature journals than any other. It is unfortunate that publication in “high impact” journals is a direct end to academic promotion and grant funding, but I can’t come up with a better alternative, since there aren’t other rapid and easy metrics of scientific quality. :/ Likewise, garbage science (and scientists) are propogated for largely political (being in the club) purposes, but humans are political animals and this seems unavoidable. Afterall, if The Man weren’t in a priviledged position, (s)he wouldn’t be The Man.

  3. drugmonkey said

    “You did notice that this is Nature Medicine … or is the whole family of journals damned? “
    i may be a bit guilty of tarring with the same brush, yes.

    “and this is no more or less true of the Nature journals than any other.”
    I disagree. I think it is something specific about the type of thing they choose to publish that makes it more likely that stuff is “flat-out wrong” or “misleading”.

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