From an article in the Guardian today
1) Be professional. It's called peer review for a reason. You, putative reviewer, are the peer. If you don't do it for them why should they do it for you? This is a core part of your job as an academic. It shows both that you are part of the academy and willing to engage in the interplay that makes the profession work. Reviewing is an excellent way to keep up with literature and a superb way to sharpen your own writing.
2) Be pleasant. If the paper is truly awful, suggest a reject but don't engage in ad hominum remarks. Rejection should be a positive experience for all. Don't say things in a peer review that you would not say to the person's face in a presentation or in a bar after a conference.
3) Read the invite. When you receive an email inviting you to review a paper, most journals will provide a link to either accept and or reject. Don't respond to the editor with a long apology about how you would love to do it but your cat has had kittens and you have a paper yourself to do, plus a class to teach and anyhow wouldn't prof von Juntz at Miskatonic be better? Click. The. Link. The invite tells you when it's due. It may also give you specific instructions, so follow these.
4. Be helpful. Suggest to the authors how to overcome the shortcomings you identify. It's the easiest thing in the world to poke holes in something. It is usually much harder to suggest how to fix them. A review is more than a suggestion to revise, reject or accept. It should be meaningful. It should guide the author on what is good and what is not so good as you see it. If it's too short, then it probably isn't going to do that. So be loquacious. Explain what is going on in your thinking. Suggest alternative approaches.
5) Be scientific. Your role is that of a scientific peer. It is not that of an editor in either the proofreading or decision-making sense. Don't fall back on filling a review with editorial and typographic issues. If the paper is rife with errors, tell the editor and give examples. Concentrate rather on showing the added value of your scientific knowledge and not so much on missing commas etc. If as part of your revision you think that the paper should be professionally proof edited (as I sometimes do with my own), then say so. A caveat to this is that the paper (and indeed the review) is an act of communication. If it is so poorly constructed as to fail in its communication role, then tell me that. Remember that in the end the paper is not about style but substance, unless the style gets in the way.
6) Be timely. There is no point complaining about how slow the paper publication process is if you're part of the problem. When you agree to review a paper with a timeline given (unless there is a really good reason), you should stick to it. Believe it or not, editors do track who is reviewing what and when. We have to balance the natural tendency to give more reviews to those who do most, with a realisation that people are doing this essentially pro bono and have limited time. So the timeframe we give is designed to be timely but mildly pressurising. Deadlines are good. Stick to them.
7) Be realistic. Be realistic about the work presented, changes you suggest and your role. You as a reviewer are part of the process. You don't have final say on the determination of the manuscript. I, as editor, have that. Sometimes editors override the suggestions of reviewers (hopefully with good reasons). You can, and in that case engage, in a dialog with the editor as to why – ideally this is a learning opportunity for all. Sometimes this overriding is because the bar being set by the reviewer is too high for that paper. Data may not be available, a paradigm suggested not appropriate. These may be useful suggestions for another paper but each paper is, or should be, one main idea.
8) Be empathetic. Think of the best review you have gotten in terms of guiding a paper forward. Then think of the worst. Which would you rather get on average? Then put yourself into the shoes of the author whose paper you are reviewing. Where along the scale will your review fall? What goes around comes around and therefore ensuring that your reviews are scientific, helpful and courteous is a good idea.
9) Be open. Unless it's a review for the Journal of Incredible Specialisation, specialists and generalists both have a role to play. Editors, especially of general interest journals, will try to get both specialised and more general reviewers. Saying "it's not my area" is rarely an excuse, especially when you have recently published a very closely related paper. Saying "I'm only one of the authors" in response, doesn't cut it either. Editors try to balance reviews. That is why we ask for a number of reviewers. We may want a generalist, a subject specialist, someone with experience in the methodology and someone whose work is being critiqued. If we ask you then assume you have a valid and useful role to play.
10) Be organised. A review is, like a paper, a communication. It therefore requires structure and a logical flow. It is not possible to critique a paper for logical holes, grammatical howlers, poor structure etc if your critique is itself rife with these flaws. Draft the review as you go along, then redraft. Most publishers provide short guides on structuring a peer review on their website. Read some of these and follow the main principles. At the start, give a brief one or two sentence overview of your review. Then give feedback on the following: paper structure, the quality of data sources and methods of investigation used, specific issues on the methods and methodologies used (yes, there is a difference), logical flow of argument (or lack thereof), and validity of conclusions drawn. Then comment on style, voice and lexical concerns and choices, giving suggestions on how to improve.
Brian Lucey is professor of finance at Trinity College Dublin. He is editor of International Review of Financial Analysis and Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Finance – follow him on Twitter @brianmluce
I am on the editorial board of Annual Reviews of Environment and Resources, a journal that provides overviews of key broad topics to do with environment, energy and natural resources.
Every September we gather in the very lovely Annual Reviews offices in Palo Alto, California. There a wonderfully diverse editorial team thrashes out ideas of papers to commission for the next volume (there is only one volume per year). This is always fun, and I learn so much about issues I know little about.
A long-haul flight from megalopolis to megalopolis with a window seat (away from the wing!) can be an amazing chance to appreciate the wild far reaches of this amazing planet, and an education in Earth's geography. Especially when equipped with the online moving map and a judicious download of the relevant high resolution images of the flight path from Google Earth before flying.
Yesterday I flew from London to San Francisco. The flight took an exceptionally northerly route, passing 80 degrees north, with stunning views of north-west Greenland, where the thick ice sheet calves icebergs into Baffin Bay. The afternoon sun was low and lit up the still waters of Baffin Bay with a translucent orange-yellow. In late September the calving is calming to a halt but the winter freeze has not begun. This is the period of minimum sea ice cover, and this minimum has been declining year-on-year, and much faster than expected.
(plus I add a few pictures of Jasper National Park and the spectacular Canadian Rockies)
How forest structure varies along the Amazon-Andes transect using airborne lidar from the Carnegie Airborne Observatory
This paper on Andes-Amazon structure and function has been published online in Biogeosciences Discussions. It applies the airborne lidar of the Carnegie Airborne Observatory for a unique insight into how forest structure and function varies with elevation.
For those who do not know, this journal has an interesting format, which we use when we want to get something out to the community more quickly. The paper is posted on Biogeosciences Discussions, where it is possible for anyone to post comments and reviews. If accepted, it eventually gets published in Biogeosciences.
Citation: Asner, G. P., Anderson, C., Martin, R. E., Knapp, D. E., Tupayachi, R., Kennedy-Bowdoin, T., Sinca, F., and Malhi, Y.: Landscape-scale changes in forest structure and functional traits along an Andes-to-Amazon elevation gradient, Biogeosciences Discuss., 10, 15415-15454, doi:10.5194/bgd-10-15415-2013, 2013.
Last night an adventure TV documentary was broadcast on Dutch TV, showing our work in Brazil in investigating the response of the Amazon to climate change. This was hosted by adventure journalist Bernice Notenboom, and involves speedboats, paddle boards, tree climbing and drought experiments and aircraft, and visits to the magical field station at Caxiuana. As well as my involvement it also includes Peter Cox, Antonio Lola da Costa, Greg Asner and Paulo Brando.
It can be seen here.
Lots of Dutch commentary but much of the footage is in English with Dutch subtitles, so it is possible to follow what is going on. An English language version (different edit) will appear on the Weather Channel later this year.
We just has a new paper out on the Caxiuana rainfall removal experiment, which can be downloaded here.
This short video was forwarded by our friend Greg Asner, taken from on board his plane, the Carnegie Airborne Observatory. It shows how the gold rush is devastating the forests of Madre de Dios.
"Güido Lombardi, a Peruvian journalist, tells in his news radio program at RPP Noticias the impressions that he got after overflying the affected areas by the illegal mining in Madre de Dios, in the Peruvian rainforest. These images where captured by the Carnegie Airborne Observatory."
Following on from the previous post, here are a couple of interesting articles/opinion pieces focussing on the obsession to only publish in high impact factor journals, the high rejection rates for these journals, and how this results in limitation of scientific knowledge and high cost on scientist's time.
On plummeting manuscript acceptance rates by the main ecological journals and the progress of ecology
David A. Wardle
Ideas in Ecology and Evolution
Citation opportunity cost of the high impact factor obsession
Cagan H. Sekercioglu
An interesting new publication by Bill Laurance and team in Bioscience.
Here is the paper, and the abstract is below:
Predicting Publication Success for Biologists
Can one foresee whether young scientists will publish successfully during their careers? For academic biologists on four continents, we evaluated the effects of gender, native language, prestige of the institution at which they received their PhD, the date of their first publication (relative to the year of PhD completion), and their pre-PhD publication record as potential indicators of long-term publication success (10 years post-PhD). Pre-PhD publication success was the strongest correlate of long-term success. Gender, language, and the date of first publication had ancillary roles, with native English speakers, males, and those who published earlier in their career having minor advantages. Once these aspects were accounted for, university prestige had almost no discernable effect. We suggest that early publication success is vital for aspiring young scientists and that one of the easiest ways to identify rising stars is simply to find those who have published early and often.
I think they are broadly correct in their analysis, and I find myself carefully examining early publication (rates and quality) when looking at job applicants. It is a shame (but no surprise) that native English-speakers and males have a minor advantage , but important to note that these effects are surprisingly minor compared to early career publication trajectory.
But if anybody with no papers out of their PhD feels demotivated, remember that statistics do not equal destiny. I had only one paper from my PhD, and that was published two years after getting my PhD.
Another piece from Justin Catanoso on our Andes work - this time in National Geographic
Rain Forest Plants Race to Outrun Global Warming
From a 13,000-foot peak of the Andes Mountains in southern Peru, gazing east over the dense rain forests of the Amazon basin, all you see is undulating green—one of the most verdant places on the planet.
It's what you can't see that matters.
The plants are on the run, trying to move to higher ground, where the air is cool enough to support their existence.Most of these species are not going to be able to tolerate climate change," saysKen Feeley, a tropical biologist from Florida International University in Miami, "mostly because climate change is happening so fast."
Feeley spoke as we hiked into the jungle with a small group of other scientists—through an area that contains more tree, plant, bird, and animal species than the entire eastern seaboard of the United States.
It is here that an international collective of scientists, called the Andes Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research Group, has mapped one of the largest field grids of its kind for a wide range of climate change studies.
According to a decade of research by Feeley and his colleagues, including tropical biologist Miles Silman of Wake Forest University, tropical species are frantically migrating upslope as they reproduce. But they may not be moving fast enough.
Tropical Andean tree species are shifting roughly 8 to 12 vertical feet (2.5 to 3.5 meters) a year on average—the arboreal equivalent of a dash. Yet for those trees to remain in equilibrium with their preferred temperatures, they need to migrate more than 20 vertical feet a year....(more)
Here is a beautifully shot little video about our work (and other work) at Wytham Woods, Oxford's ecology field site.
A look at Wytham Woods' long history as a venue for ecology research: and how the woods, despite their timeless appearance, are a place of constant change.
Decades of careful study of leaves, roots and branches make Wytham Woods arguably the home of ecology. But it's not just what's in the wood, but the wood itself, that today's ecologists strive to comprehend, as research into the shape, breathing, and shifting of the organisms of the ecosystem that is Wytham helps scientists the world over to understand the importance of forests in an age of rapidly changing climates.
Yadvinder Malhi is an ecosytem ecologist and Professor of Ecosystem Science at Oxford University