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A Chatty Suggestion

As a reviewer, the manuscripts that Iddo Friedberg reads usually fall into four categories — the really bad, the really great, the pretty good but needs some fixes, and the ones that need clarification for the reviewer to be able to say whether fixes are needed or not. That last one, says Friedberg at Byte Size Biology, is the most common kind of paper, and often the lack of clarity isn't necessarily due to bad writing but because the method or idea described is so new. As a reviewer, it's not possible to ask for minor clarifications, which leads to asking for major revisions, which then leads to a delay in publishing the paper. Instead, Friedberg asks, couldn't reviewer and author chat anonymously through email or chat technology to provide such clarifications and shorten the turnover time for papers? "If needed, a chat session or email exchange monitored by the editor could really help push a paper through (or away). The exchange should be very brief, topical, logged (with the referee anonymized). The session should be requested by the referee, with very specific questions. The number of back-and-forth exchanges should be limited," he says. It wouldn't be so much about keeping bad papers out, but making it easier for good papers to be published. As an author himself, Friedberg adds, it would be a great way to ask reviewers to clarify the comments they make, as well.