Self-citation not needed

March 26, 2015

I am a postdoctoral researcher. Over the past few years, I have taken the inevitable step of peer-reviewing papers for a number of journals in my field of research. I read the article “Peer reviewing: a good deed and a good career move, too” (News, 12 March) and had to respond to some of the points that were perhaps not discussed.

Peer-reviewing has been a learning curve. I have considered it to be a rite of passage, a task that all on the academic path undertake to give something back.

However, my latest frustration with the peer-review process comes from authoring a paper. At first glance, the feedback that I received was constructive and no major changes were required. But after digging deeper I realised that one reviewer had clearly overstepped the mark and had made comments that were less than useful.

In short, the reviewer made a few short and vague points relating to the introduction that lacked “physical argumentation”. The suggestion to cite two totally irrelevant papers was my breaking point because they were as relevant to the paper as astrology is to astronomy.

And then I realised that peer-reviewing is an opportunity, not just a way of ensuring good research. In 2015, peer-reviewers are undertaking this work as a method of self-love, otherwise known as self-citation. The frustrating thing is that it is working, and no “index” can capture how useful this practice is for increasing your citation statistics. I’ll admit that on one occasion I have done the same, but the work was relevant to the paper in review.

To all authors out there: don’t roll over and allow peer-reviewers to piggyback their papers on to your work. I’d rather a career of low citations and high regard on other merits.

John Gallagher
Hydro-BPT research officer, Bangor University

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