Thursday, January 27, 2011

Little fish, Big Pond

GMP commented recently about my rantings regarding a particular paper review process (Engineering Professor: Terrible reviewing practices). Her comment was that the name plays a big role in where a paper is accepted. I completely agree with that statement, but was wondering how far can I run with it. In my CV, can I say this is where the paper is published, and then next to it say where it should have been published? :) What if I created a normalization scale? I guess citation data does this to some degree. How tacky is it to have the number of citations listed next to each of one's publications?

More importantly, how much does this little fish bias get taken into account during the tenure process?

To take this a bit further, what do people think about double blind paper review? I definitely see the benefit of knowing the source for grant proposals, but I can't think of a single reason for why I should know who did the work when I'm reviewing the results. In fact, since I'm human, even if I pretend otherwise, there will almost always be a bias on some level when I know who did the work.


  1. When I was first starting out, I was a big proponent of double blind review. I still think it is a good idea, but I think that once you have been working in a field for a while, it becomes much easier to "guess" at the group writing the paper even in the absence of citations to prior work from the group. Adding in the prior citations, and keeping the double blind becomes really challenging.

    Still, the fact that some reviewers can guess the authors doesn't make double blind reviewing not worth doing. After all, lot of people think they "know" who reviewer #3 is from the style and they are wrong!

  2. I think that the double blind review could not work. It is too easy to figure out the author of a paper. Most work builds on previous stuff from the same lab, after all. I don't believe that folks are nearly as good at guessing reviewers as they think they are, based on every single conversation I have ever had with an editor.

    As for the tenure question, I think you really need to get some info from your chair and/or mentors. At least where I am at, there is an unofficial "normalization" because folks understand the bias. And they expect quality pubs that build a foundation (and name) for later high-quality pubs. But I bet that depends on the Dept.

  3. I guess one could figure it out from the references, or obvious statements like "based on our previous results" but I still think it might be beneficial for new PIs. For new projects, reviewers and editors wouldn't know if it's a new person or an established PI starting on a new project.

  4. It would be tacky to list citations for individual publications, but it is quite acceptable to mention your total (career) citations somewhere. At least as long as you don't use a boldface 18 font to do so ;)