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Thursday, July 29, 2010

I'm Still Alive (but things might make me laugh myself to death)

Because of the end of the semester, some heath issues (since resolved), working on research, and being a bit burned, I haven't posted anything for several months.

But like one of the best business tacticians of our times says, "Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in". So I guess this is my "welcome back" post.

I just received a referee's report that made me laugh at its awesomeness. First a bit of background: I sent a paper to a lower-tier journal back in June of 2008. There was no response for over a year, so I sent several emails (and voice mails) to the editor with no response. Finally, getting fed up, back in November, I sent him an email (and follow-up voicemail) asking the editor to withdraw the paper. We subsequently got a revise and resubmit another journal.

Then today I get this from the original journal (i.e. the where I'd withdrawn the paper long ago):
RE: XXXXX and the use of XXX

I have now received a report on your paper in which the referee makes a number of recommendations for improvement. Unfortunately I am unable to accept the paper for publication in its current form. However I would be happy to reconsider the paper if you were to revise it along the lines suggested by the referee. I look forward to your resubmission.

The reviewer's comments are given below.

Referee: 1
Comments to the Author

This paper examines the relationship between XXX and XXX. However, Pearson correlation coefficient that this paper uses is very ordinary. And this often does not measure the non-linear relationship for variables. In addition, the paper does not make the necessary statistical test and analysis to the studying results.
Note: emphasis is mine, and I only changed the relatively few words necessary to protect the guilty.

Yes, that is the sum total of the referee's report. I'd always heard that the main difference between "good" journals and "weak" ones wasn't so much the mean quality of reviewer but the variance. Now I have my own data point.

Next time I will make sure to use "extraordinary" Pearson correlation coefficients and "make the necessary statistical test and analysis to the studying result".

update: I told a friend and former classmate of mine about this, and he suggested that "Outstandingly Bad Referee Reports" would make for a fun session topic at a conference- particularly if we had a journal editor select the panel members. However, he suggested that the entertainment value would be much better if you could somehow ensure that (unbeknownst to each other) both the recipients of the reports and the originators were both on the panel).

But that would be wrong. Funny, but wrong.