The Whitehead Institute's Hidde Ploegh has a bone to pick with the peer review process at prestigious journals. By submitting a manuscript to a "high-profile" publication, he says in Nature News this week, researchers commonly receive a recommendation: that they ought to "perform additional experiments." While he says that electing to do the recommended "extra work can provide important support for the results being presented," Ploegh suggests that "all too frequently it represents instead an entirely new phase of the project, or does not extend the reach of what is reported." Further, performing additional experiments "is often expensive and unnecessary," he says, going so far as to add that journals' recommendations to this end restrict "the pace of research to a crawl" and incur "a serious and pernicious impact on the careers of young scientists," which can hinge on publication records. In wrapping his argument against journal referees' "requests" for additional experiments, Ploegh outlines three steps he says that "journals can take to improve this deteriorating situation." He says they should:
Over at his blog, DrugMonkey is polling his readers to assess whether they believe that such requests for additional experiments are indicitave of "wasteful tyranny," as Ploegh suggests. Of the 82 respondents so far, the majority — nearly 60 percent of voters — agree that it is a 'wasteful, tyrannical' practice. Only 20 percent disagree with Ploegh, while another 20 percent remain undecided, having voted "other."
Derek Lowe at In the Pipeline largely agrees with Ploegh's points, saying that he "wouldn't mind seeing editors crack down on this some," though at times he's received reviewer feedback that "had identified things that really did need to be shored up." Lowe adds the suggestion that journals consider publishing peer-reviewed papers in a more timely manner, but "adding an editorial note about what further experiments had been suggested by reviewers" to those for which that applies. "This would fulfill the function of pointing out potential weak points or areas for further exploration, but without delaying things so much," he says.