Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Take Out

Summer is not a great time for editors of journals to find reviewers for manuscripts. At least, that is my experience. In the summer, many academic scientists (and others) are extremely busy trying to get as much research done as possible before the beginning of the academic year. Many of us travel (conferences, research visits etc.). Some even take a vacation.

And yet, many people submit manuscripts for review in the summer, when they have time to complete projects, so the peer review process cannot take the summer off.

With effort, I have been able to find a sufficient number of reviewers for most submitted manuscripts that I have to handle as editor, but I have also received a large number of excuses from people explaining why they can't accept my request to review a manuscript.

Of course, no one has to give a reason, but many choose to do so, no doubt feeling the invisible sting of my editorial frustration and fearing my wrath the next time they submit a manuscript to the journal I edit. Or something.

Most excuses are routine and uncreative:

  • I have too many other reviews to do at this time (in fact, that's the one I use the most when declining review requests from editors of other journals).
  • I am traveling non-stop for the next n weeks (further admission: I've used that one as well, but only when it's true).
  • The subject of this manuscript is beyond my expertise. etc.

This summer, I got this one from a potential reviewer:

My wife made me take her on vacation.

Shall we parse that? It's summer, we have nothing better to do, let's do it:

My wife.. It's her fault! Not mine! I really really wanted to do this review but..

made me.. I had no choice! I was coerced! She was going to refuse to make my dinner and wash my socks if I didn't accede to her demand..

take her.. ugh, this is the part I dislike the most in this sentence. Why did she need to be taken on vacation? Did he carry her? Strap her to the car roof? Does "take" mean that he paid, drove, or both, and she sat passively while he took her places?

on vacation.. because of course, given his druthers, as a serious scientists, he would not go on vacation, he would do the review. But, alas, he was not allowed to have druthers. His wife took them.

Surely we can come up with better excuses than the boring ones and the wife-made-me one. They need not even be true, as long as they are not boring.

I am requesting that each of you provide a creative, entertaining excuse for declining a request to review. Do not decline this request even though it is summer. I am quite sure that you do not have any other similar requests at this time, you can easily type one in the comment box even if you are traveling non-stop for the next n weeks, and I happen to know that your wife (or whoever) wants you to take this challenge and entertain the readers of FSP.

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