When peer review turns to trolling

In University Affairs, environmental scientist Ryan Bullock looks at his career-worth of experience subjecting his research to peer review: “The trolls have infested academic peer review”.

It’s a worthwhile perspective and many scientists will recognize their own experiences.

After much consideration, I believe that current peer-review processes often do the opposite of what they are supposed to achieve. That is, the double-blind system provides no assurance to me – and, by extension, the readers – that reviewers are qualified professionals. The blind review process can reduce accountability, leading to poor-quality service work, which reviewers can no doubt still count on in their annual evaluations without having properly served their journal, their discipline or their colleagues. The blinded format can encourage boorish and unethical behaviour. To top it off, troll reviews waste an incredible amount of professional time and energy of authors, editors and colleagues who reviewed earlier drafts.

I agree that the system of anonymity is harmful. I sign my reviews for journals that permit it. I think that an open system would be much fairer to authors and referees. I also think openness would do much to reduce the overhyping of research articles upon their release.