Tested to destruction

June 6, 2013

Drawing on personal experience, Adrian Furnham expresses concern over what he sees as peer-review “nightmares” and the “arbitrariness of journal decision-making” (“Take the rough with the smooth”, Opinion, 23 May). In a career in which he has published more than 1,000 peer-reviewed papers, he can certainly claim to have tested the frailties of the system.

If we assume a 40-year period of research (give or take a few years), Furnham’s output would equate to about 25 papers a year, or a paper submitted to an editor every two weeks (not including rejections and resubmissions to other journals). If we also assume a minimum of one correction per paper, his communications with editors would average at least 50 a year, or about one a week. An easy task, Furnham might claim, but possibly not for all the editors and reviewers floundering in his wake.

If his approach is not a recipe for the occasional bout of chaos or worse, I don’t know what is. Indeed, Furnham seems to agree: in trying to understand one particular editor, he wonders whether he is suffering from “a short-term memory problem, overwork” or playing “a prank”. Perhaps it is all three. What is certain is that if all researchers adopted ­Furnham’s demanding approach to the peer-review system, it would quickly collapse.

Ben Atkinson
Hertfordshire

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