By Ken Perrott 30/12/2015 1


Yes, I know, this video clip is old hat. It’s been used so many times it has got boring. And, maybe most readers won’t really relate to the way it is used here.

Still, those who have published scientific papers and suffered the emotional roller-coaster of peer-review will be aware of the problem of the “third reviewer.”

The more cynical will describe the peer review process as a bit of a farce. Usually, a journal will use three reviewers. Many times the first one presents a glowing, but undetailed report, recommending publication. The second reviewer will reject the paper out of hand, recommending that no way should it be published. But their recommendation is similarly undetailed.

The third reviewer will have done the work, hopefully in detail and conscientiously. And they may recommend publication – but only after their detailed critiqued is dealt with. But many authors dread their report because it usually means a lot more work for them – maybe, more experimental work.

I have seen authors get very emotional about specific peer reviews of their papers – and it is usually the “third reviewer” that upsets them. It means more work – and the detailed critique seems to be harder to handle than the undetailed outright rejection of the second reviewer. Perhaps the Hitler video clip is not too far from the truth.

Still, I think the peer-review process hangs on the “third reviewer.” There need to be far more reviewers who take their role seriously in this way. The first two reviewers are just lazy and opinionated – their comments are worth nothing.

For more on the peer-review process and its problems read Is scientific peer review a “sacred cow” ready to be slaughtered? « Science-Based Medicine

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One Response to “Peer review – the “tyranny” of the third reviewer”

  • Ken, what do you think of this approach, in a reply to your cite?

    “Sneha Kulkarni • 3 days ago

    Peer review is definitely not flawless. It has become a soft target for authors as there are several loopholes that help them manipulate the review system. This is why, to work around some of the problems pre-publication peer review poses, many journals are using post-publication peer review as a way of ascertaining the quality of published research,”