The Sassy Scientist – Swimming with the Sharks

The Sassy Scientist – Swimming with the Sharks

While savouring a refreshing beverage and browsing through news of [yet another] dystopian summer, Ethan keeps receiving notifications from his e-mail. It turns out that he is insistently being asked to review (again and again) a paper. Naturally, he turns to me to ask:

How can I refuse doing paper reviews?

Dear Ethan,

A question as old as time academia! The increase in publication volumes in the past decades has also meant an increased effort to partake in the peer-review process. Ultimately, the peer-review is the golden standard of academia, the height of human thought, and the certitude we are spending our resources well in the search for the truth. Some say that peer review is similar to an academic community service duty: it is expected of you, and you do it for the benefit of humanity at the detriment of your energy and resources. This process of blindly reviewing each other’s work offers the possibility to improve the science and overcome the personal caveats and biases of each individual. In principle, it benefits everyone long term and you should be honoured to contribute and do a thorough job.

But in reality, we all know how you feed into the academic Ponzi scheme by saying ‘yes’ to the endless stream of review requests. An early career scholar pays to get an education, and pays to learn to do science, to then pays to publish, while also paying to read the science previously published. But the magic of academic publishing is that you do not get paid to review manuscripts, data sets, proposals, and such. Thinking of economics of academic publishing makes me feel the same sense of awe I had as a very young child when a magician made the coin disappear. But this time around, greedy, for-profit publishing companies ‘the community’ make billions of $ vanish.

So here are some very plausible and decent excuses for an otherwise obnoxious industry:

  • too busy re-indexing my rock collection
  • busy with fossil hunting in the back yard
  • reading about galaxy collision
  • preparing for the zombie apocalypse
  • planning fieldwork to the core-mantle boundary
  • thinking about Pluto
  • perfecting your recipe for the next geobake

Yours truly,

The Sassy Scientist

PS: Keep your phone on airplane mode and review only what speaks to your heart!

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I am currently employed at a first tier research institute where I am continuously working with the greatest minds to further our understanding of the solid Earth system. Whether it is mantle or lithosphere structure and dynamics, solid Earth rheology parameters, earthquake processes, integrating observations with model predictions or inversions: you have read a paper of mine. Even if you are working on a topic I haven’t mentioned here, I still know everything about it. Do you have any problems in your research career? I have already experienced them. Do you struggle with your work-life balance? Been there, done that. Nowadays, I have only one hobby: helping you out by answering the most poignant questions in geodynamics, research and life. I am waiting for you right here. Get inspired.

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