[leps-talk] Peer Review---does it work?

Mark Walker MWalker at gensym.com
Tue Nov 12 23:19:59 EST 2002

I've been following this thread with considerable interest, and I consider
all of the views being voiced both reasonable and appropriate.  There is one
concern that I have with the formal review process (that is normally
required for research to be considered valid) that is perhaps a different
concern than what Harry has already discussed.  As a background, I've
reproduced Michael Gochfeld's recently posted caveats:

> 1.  reviewers only know so much and with complex papers, two or even three
> or now
> even four reviewers may not know enough to criticize a method.
> 2.  Some reviewers are simply very aggressive and believe their job is to
> police the
> literature (editors like this because it helps them reject papers when
> they get too
> many, often three times as many as they can publish).  Good journals have
> acceptance
> rates of less than 50% (some down to 10%). Therefore aggressive reviewing
> is deemed
> necessary.  It often, however, excludes papers that intrude on the
> reviewers domain
> and it often excludes non-orthodox opinions and findings.

All of this makes sense when it comes to analyzing (and validating)
methodology or filtering through works that won't all fit into a journal or
symposium format.  As an engineer and scientist, I understand and can put up
with this peer review system even though it certainly remains flawed.  As a
lepidopterist, however, I find myself wanting access to more information
than what is available through the relatively few journals.  If this were
just an issue of too few people collecting or generating data, I would
understand.  But that is NOT the case - there are MANY people collecting
useful data, making hypotheses, identifying anomalies, etc.  It would seem
that much of this would be useful to others.  Anyone interested in a
specific taxon obviously wants to know about anything that has been studied,
everything that has been suggested, and everyone who has pertinent
information or insights.  This is one of the reasons I LOVE the TILS
publications and the onset of web-based reporting.  They provide a greater
access to scientific research, pertinent opinions, and anecdotal

One of the reasons I choose to ramble on about my field observations across
the airwaves and copper pipelines is to help legitimize what I'm driven by
passion to do.  Though my reports are principally anecdotal (and serve also
as an outlet for my passion for story telling), they are also intended to
document and propagate what I'm seeing to any and all interested
lepidopterists.  In fact, for any who might be interested, I am actually in
the midst of a 20-year period of data collection, after which (God willing)
I plan on spending my dessert years carefully studying the material that I
have collected.  To assist in that effort, I am meeting with and learning
from key colleagues every year.  I am grateful that I lead a life that
permits me to do all of the above, but if the access to travel is suddenly
cut short I will have to rely exclusively on hard copy or electronic data to
assist me.  There is precious too little of this available.

Though I have published formally before (non-lep related), I don't have any
professional motivation for jumping through the necessary hoops to have my
lepidopterist research published in scientific journals.  When I do finally
get around to publishing any interesting findings from my vouchered
historical observations, I hope that there will be something like the TILS
publication to facilitate the effort.


Mark Walker
enjoying the fabulous butterfly conditions down here in South Texas. 


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