Monday, October 11, 2010

Another comment-that-isn't-a-comment

I don't like this trend. Well, I don't know if it is a trend, or just something that I've only recently started noticing, but I don't like it anyway. Here is another comment-that-isn't-a-comment, where Murphy et al lay into the Spencer and Braswell paper. I'd rather have seen Spencer and Braswell's defence alongside in traditional comment-and-reply form. The con is that they would get another chance to promote what appears to be a pretty bogus analysis (shades of Schwartz) but the pro is that anyone with a bit of nous will be able to work out from the reply that they really don't have a case. As it is, we are left hanging (though in this case, perhaps not so much).

I don't know who is primarily to blame for this state of affairs - editors for their well-documented hostility towards comments, reviewers for voting to reject too often or authors not wanting to give their opponents a fair say. (The only one of these I have any evidence for is the first, the others are pure speculation, though I have had the impression that some regard squabbling comments as rather unseemly, at least among "consensus" scientists.) But I don't like it much in any case. A decent debate can often be much more illuminating than people taking pot-shots at each other from a distance. And the exchanges are also usually fun to read :-)


Anonymous said...

Is there ever a case where you feel that a response to a comment is just so lame it shouldn't even be published?

eg, the G&T reply to comment:

Really, I think this is only relevant in cases where the publication of the original paper was just purely embarrassing, and therefore publication of the comment becomes a mechanism for the journal to, in a way, apologize for having messed up the first time. However, I can see that there might be a difference of opinion here (eg, the journal made the mistake, so has to live with the consequences including publishing reply-to-comments) (though, really, the reply-to-comment should have to pass peer review, which the G&T reply shouldn't have, anyway)


James Annan said...

Yes, there was also the McLean et al failure to pass peer review. A reply should be reviewed, it should not be a free pass to say anything. OTOH reviewers and editors should perhaps be a little more generous with a reply than they would be with another paper (ie only rejecting for serious problems).

Marco said...

Some months ago I was a bit surprised after I submitted a comment to two articles (and criticising another 10 in the process...), and found that none of the authors of those two papers had been reviewers, and that neither were (apparently) allowed to comment.
At the same time this was a situation like -M describes: the two papers were really embarassing. As in "fundamental textbook errors".

Still, if *I* had been Editor, I would at least have sent the comment to be reviewed by one of the authors being criticised. Maybe they did with the criticism on Spencer & Braswell?

PolyisTCOandbanned said...

Length limitation is an issue also.