Peer-to-peer criticism

September 27, 2012

In "Peer pressure" (Opinions, 13 September), Stephen Mumford points out some of the flaws of the peer review system used by most academic journals and argues for greater transparency in the process. In this respect he is certainly correct.

However, Mumford is surely incorrect when he states that "reviewers are...largely unaccountable...there appears to be little sanction against a sloppy, negative review...and the author has no right of reply". On two occasions, I have challenged editorial decisions based on reviews that were either inaccurate or misleading. In both cases, the editor accepted my arguments, sent the manuscripts out for further review and the papers were subsequently published. These papers have since been well cited, vindicating my stance.

I am not suggesting that authors should routinely dispute negative reviews - during a 20-year career, I have had my fair share that I've not taken up with editors. But if an argument can be made that a review is fundamentally flawed, editors, in my experience, are willing to listen.

Jeff Ollerton, Professor of biodiversity, School of Science and Technology, University of Northampton

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