Nature on poor peer-reviewing skills

"Many of the goals of mentoring are self-evident. But the explicit fostering of ethics in the lab is rare."

- Nature editorial

In one of the editorials in the most recent issue of Nature, the problem of shoddy peer review was given a fresh perspective. The anonymous editorial author suggested that when lamenting an ignorant or biased report of one's work, or indulging in the knee-jerk reaction of blaming the manuscript's handling editor, the scientist should stop and think how much time and energy he or she has put, personally, into training young scientists how to assess research papers fairly and properly. Far from being a talent that comes into being by magic, learning how to be a constructive and unbiased peer reviewer takes practice, experience and solid instruction, but some lab heads don't devote any time to passing on their hard-won skills.

But, the editorial warns, "[a]s the pressures on researchers grow – bureaucracy from institutions and funding agencies, incentives to apply the outcomes of research – the very motivation to do a conscientious job of peer review is itself under pressure."

In other words, think you don't have time to show your post-docs how to critique a paper? Then don't complain the next time your own paper gets an unprofessional assessment.

You can read the rest of the editorial here.