Who sees your review?

There’s been a lot of calls for reform to the peer review process, and lots of blog posts about problems and bad experiences with peer review (Simply Statistics, SVPow, and this COPE report)  .  There is lots of evidence that peer review suffers from deficiencies related to author seniority, gender (although see Marsh et al, 2011), and from variability related to the choice of reviewers (see Peters & Ceci, 1982, but the age of this paper should be noted). Indeed, recent work by Thurner and Hanell (2011) and Squazzoni and Gandelli (2012) show how sensitive publication can be to the structure of the discipline (whether homogeneous or fragmented) and the intentions of the reviewers (whether they are competitive or collegial).

To my mind, one of the best, established models of peer review comes from the Copernicus journals of the European Geosciences Union.  I’m actually surprised that these journals are rarely referenced in debates about reviewing practice.  The journals offer two outlets, I’ve published with co-authors in Climate of the Past Discussions (here, here and here), the papers undergo open review by reviewers who may or may not remain anonymous (their choice), and then the response and revised paper goes to ‘print’ in Climate of the Past (still in review, here and here respectively).

This is the kind of open peer review that people have pushed by posting reviews on their blogs (I saw a post on twitter a couple weeks ago, bt can’t find the blog, if anyone has a reference please let me know).  The question is, why not publish in journals that support the kind of open review you want?  There are a number of models out there now, and I believe there is increasing acceptance of these models so we have choice, lets use it.

What inspired me to write the post though was my own recent experience as a reviewer.  I just finished reviewing a fairly good paper that ultimately got rejected.  When I received the editors notice I went to see what the other reviewer had said, only to find that the journal does not release other reviews.  This was the first time this has happened to me and I was surprised.

I review for a number of reasons.  It helps me give back to my disciplinary community, it keeps me up to date on new papers, it gives me an opportunity to deeply read and communicate science in a way that we don’t ordinarily undertake, and it helps me improve my own skills.  The last point comes not only from my own activity, but from reading the reviews of others.  If you want a stronger peer review process, having peers see one another’s reviews is helpful.

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Three new papers in various stages of publication.

I’ve just gone through and put some new papers into my Research page.  I’ve been busy over the past little while and it seems to be paying off.  Here are some of my latest papers, with brief summaries for your enjoyment:

Figure 5 from Goring et al., the relationships between plant richness and smoothed pollen richness and vice versa both show a slightly negative relationship (accounting for very little variability), meaning higher plant richness is associated with lower pollen richness.
Figure 5 from Goring et al., the relationships between plant richness and smoothed pollen richness and vice versa both show a slightly negative relationship (accounting for very little variability), meaning higher plant richness is associated with lower pollen richness.

Goring S, Lacourse T, Pellatt MG, Mathewes RW.  Pollen richness is not correlated to plant species richness in British Columbia, Canada.  Journal of Ecology,   Accepted. [Link][Supplement]

  • Although pollen richness has acted as a proxy for vegetation richness in the literature, our paper shows that this may not be the case.  Taphonomic processes, from release of the pollen to deposition and preservation in lake sediments, appear to degrade the signal of plant richness to the point that there is no significant relationship between plant species richness and pollen taxonomic richness.  The supplementary material includes all the R code and a sample of the raw data (we could not freely share some of the data) used to perform the analysis.

Combourieu-Nebout N, Peyron O, Bout-Roumazeilles V, Goring S, Dormoy I, Joannin S, Sadori L, Siani G, and Magny M. 2013. Holocene vegetation and climate changes in central Mediterranean inferred from a high-resolution marine pollen record (Adriatic Sea). Climate of the Past Discussions, 9:1969-2014. [Link]

  • Another great paper on Holocene and late-Glacial change in the Mediterranean, part of a Special Series in Climate of the Past.  This paper uses multiple proxies, including the use of clay mineral fractions to match climate signals from pollen to sediment transport into the Adriatic from the Po River watershed, sediment blown from the Sahara and sediment transported down the Apennines.  This paper further examines shifts in seasonal precipitation in the central Mediterranean associated with changes in insolation during the Holocene and broader scale shifts in the relative influences of major climate systems in the region.

Gill JL, McLauchlan KK, Skibbe AM, Goring S, Williams JW. Linking abundances of the dung fungus Sporormiella to the density of Plains bison: Implications for assessing grazing by megaherbivores in the paleorecord. Journal of Ecology. Early view: [Link]

  • Three great papers in a row!  This paper uses modern pollen traps in the Konza Prairie LTER to examine the relationship between Sporormiella pollen and bison grazing.  This is an important link to make because Sporormiella has been used to indicate the presence of megafauna such as mammoths and mastadons in the late-glacial.  The declining signal of Sporormiella at Appleman Lake, IN was a key feature in the onset of non-analogue vegetation at the site in the late-Glacial (Gill et al., 2009).  This paper provides an explicit link between the theoretical potential of the spore as an indicator of megafaunal presence and the degree of grazing at sites.