Reviewing was Re: [ RadSafe ] uranium smoke is a teratogen

Steven Dapra sjd at
Sat May 24 09:15:15 CDT 2008

May 24


         Thank you for writing.  You make many good points, and I realize 
that not all the papers cited would necessarily have to be read before they 
are cited.  I'm glad you pointed this out, as well as explaining the 
reasons for it.  On a few occasions I have read some of the papers cited in 
a paper and have found some things that I thought were questionable, 
although I've never done anything about it (such as write the 
authors).  I'm sure peer review could use improvement and I would support 
any efforts to do so.

Steven Dapra

At 12:18 AM 5/24/08 -0500, Jeff Terry wrote:
>Hi Steven,
>It is an interesting question that you raise about reading cited
>papers. I would not expect every author to read all of the papers that
>they cite. One must have a level of trust in the co-authors of a paper.
>While it is never good to use oneself as an example as it is too easy
>to put ones foot in mouth, here I go anyway. I would imagine that I in
>general have around 20 references in my papers and an average of 5
>authors on any given paper. That would be 4 papers per author and it
>is a manageable number. I would hope that at least one of the authors
>of any given paper have read each of the papers that they cite.
>As for reviewing, that is an entirely different story. I have had
>journal submissions returned with as few as two reviewers. I don't
>believe that we are as effective in peer review as we could be. Maybe,
>it is because of the larger number of papers submitted and the
>explosive growth in the number of journals, which results in too many
>reviews being asked of people. I don't know, but I do not believe that
>it bodes well. When I review, I do not go through every reference. I,
>always, skip those that are not relevant to the major point of the
>paper. For example, in the introduction of a paper you usually get the
>litany of these references are similar to the work described. I do
>read those that are germane to controversial points in a paper and
>often suggest other papers that bolster or contradict that authors
>comments. Hopefully, my comments provide some benefit to the authors.
>In my opinion though, peer review must be improved. It is interesting
>to see the Awards program instituted by the American Physical Society
>this year to honor extraordinary reviewers:
>Maybe, other societies can do something similar. I would really prefer
>to see all published papers be reviewed by at least three people.
>Jeff Terry
>Illinois Institute of Technology
>>On May 23, 2008, at 10:52 PM, Steven Dapra wrote:
>>        This is a very good point, and one I have pondered at times
>>when reading papers in Health Physics and other refereed journals.
>>Do the authors of these papers take the time to read all the
>>literature they cite?  Can they take the time?  Do they even read
>>the paragraph wherein the sentence appears that they have quoted?
>>We often see papers with 30 or 40 or 50 (or even more) references.
>>No one can read all that stuff before writing a paper --- can he?
>>And to imagine the reviewers reading all that material to ascertain
>>that it has been used properly?  Not to detract from the valiant
>>efforts of any reviewer, I do not see how it would be possible for
>>anyone to read all that stuff.  I don't think it would be possible
>>to check all the references and ensure that they are correct ---
>>meaning correct volume, date, and page numbers.
>>        I emphatically am not denigrating anyone's reviews.  I am
>>merely noting the enormous amount of work it would be to thoroughly
>>review a paper.
>>Steven Dapra

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