Are reviewers looking out for their own? Credit: David Dennis, Wikimedia Commons
By James Dacey
Every researcher understands the prestige and career opportunities that can present themselves if they can just get their work published in a major academic journal. If that paper contains a genuine “world first” then a young researcher can be set up for a glorious career. How would you feel then if this process was being abused by reviewers seeking to steal glory for themselves and their mates?
This is the accusation made by 14 stem cell researchers in a letter to several major journals in their field. The researchers believe that the peer review process is being corrupted by reviewers deliberately stalling, or even stopping, the publication of new results so that they or their associates can publish the breakthrough first. They also blame the journals for not doing enough to prevent this behaviour from happening.
“It’s hard to believe except you know it’s happened to you where papers are held up for months by reviewers asking for experiments that are not really fair or relevant,” says Austin Smith, director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Stem Cell Research in Cambridge, UK.
Smith, who was speaking this morning on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, is concerned that reviewers can no longer remain objective when there is so much at stake with these publications. “A paper in Nature or a paper in Cell is worth your next grant – it could be worth half a million pounds,” he says. Very serious allegations indeed…
You can hear the full broadcast here.