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The Gulf of Maine Research Institute has reinstated the "Today In the Gulf of Maine" blog at this new location.
The best quality control in scientific research is the peer review process. The pinnacle of scientific research is the seal of trust obtained when publishing results in a peer reviewed journal. The flip side of this is that for the system to work smoothly, a scientist should judge about five manuscript for every one he submits for publication. This is a really valuable but time consuming volunteer service, and the time-frame imposed by the editorial office of the journals is sometime stressing if you are to produce a meaningful review.
We all know that, so when something goes wrong in the process, it is tempting to jump on the conclusion that the hand that threw a handful of sand in the gears of this sensitive mechanics belongs to "Dr Octopus ! He's jealous because I submitted my work before him, right after I pointed out the flaws in his methodology during his last talk in Ocean Sciences meeting... Dammit !" And here you are again, fostering dangerous thoughts...
But sometimes, it's not the reviewers fault ! A recent experiment proves it:
H0 hypothesis: getting a manuscript published is a straightforward process.
Methodology: submit your manuscript to a high impact factor journal.
17 months passed between the first submission and the actual publication.
During this period, an exchange of over 40 emails with editors and staff occurred, totalizing more than 5000 words or 20 pages, which is slightly less than the manuscript itself...
Some hilarious misunderstandings popped-up: the contributing editor (a volunteer scientist who accepts a heavier burden than the regular reviewer) had a hard time to get back the reviews and summoned the reviewers, who were surprised, because they did not know they were reviewing the manuscript in the first place... The editorial office of the journal did not send the manuscript to all of the reviewers, actually... Then came the time for the homework, i.e. major corrections requiring a resubmission. Which can be dealt with. But where hilarious stands is that the not-sending-manuscript part happened again for the resubmission !
Even after the manuscript became a "high priority" matter after some sincere excuses, it still underwent some weird sorting techniques, resulting in this kind of quote: "the folder was clearly marked with a purple sticker saying 'High priority!', so it should have gone straight to a typesetter - Instead, it went into the back of the drawer, where the priority sticker was not visible".
Conclusion & discussion: A quick review (!) of past experiments allows to say that it is not the most frequent case study. In some cases, you receive the decision before the advertised timeframe. A few days later, the proofs are received by the editorial office and because you were patient, you are rewarded by a publication timely for your next NSF proposal.
For those who like to play (gamble ?), they should read first "The rules of the game in science publishing" (Browman HI 2004 In Browman HI & DS Kirby (Eds.) Quality in science publishing. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 270:267-268).