03 January 2012

Should junior scientists review manuscripts?

The Spandrel Shop asks the question and notes:
The desire to review manuscripts is something I often hear from either postdocs or junior PIs and I admit to seeking them out as a postdoc as well. I think it is a good idea to be involved in the review process from early on, as it helps improve one's own writing. It also sharpens your feel for what reviewers will look for when you submit something. However, I don't see the benefit of carrying a heavy review load pre-tenure. 
While I don't disagree with this view, I would add that I find the opportunity to examine other scholar's works-in-progress educational, illuminating, and humbling. There are many smart people out there, and it is very nice to encounter them anonymously and to have something to do with making their work clearer and better. Peer reviewing can also be self-validating. It establishes a valuable sense of belong to a community while also affirming your expertise. I guess my advice would be this: review as often as is reasonable and always remember that there is another person on the other side who will likely feel hurt and humiliated by anything you say that is critical.

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