Bad press for peer review: is it deserved? (Repost)

I’m posting this comment I wrote in 2016 for European Science Editing on my blog, because I’ve realised that it isn’t easily available or searchable online. You can also read it on ResearchGate.

Peer review has recently been getting some bad press. There is ongoing debate across the sciences about its validity and usefulness, with many believing it is slow, costly, biased, and inconsistent. (1) In the last few years alone several high-profile cases in the media have highlighted these downfalls. One such example is the reaction on Twitter to a PLOS reviewer’s suggestion that male authors be added to a manuscript examining gender bias in academia, which was written by two female researchers (Figure 1). Another is the revelation that a number of researchers had systematically submitted bogus articles and faked peer review, (2,3) and the retraction of over 120 articles published by Springer and IEEE over “gobbledygook” articles that had nonetheless passed peer review. More light-hearted criticisms of the process have included multiple online collections of the best and worst comments left by reviewers.

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I need your knitting! Knit a Neuron is BACK

I’m bringing back the event that kick-started my love of the knit and purl; Knit a Neuron!!!

I work at the University of Oxford, and part of my role is to run ‘engagement events’. The University as a whole is hosting a Curiosity Carnival on September 16th and 29th to teach the public about our research. I’m a neuroscientist by background, and in my eagerness to take part in the event I suggested they have a ‘Knit a Neuron’ installation. The aim is help kids make neurons, and teach them about brain and health research. Not only was this idea met with enthusiasm, I was asked to organise the whole thing.

This is where you, crafting community, come in.

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To my colleagues, on the death of their students’ grandmother(s)

I’ve re-blogged this article because it is a fantastic response to this other, terrible article published in the Chronicle of Higher Education (

Students can be annoying, and flaky, and sometimes they’re telling porkies, but 99% of them are working hard 100% of the time, and rely on us for support- scholarly or otherwise. As educators we are here to support their learning, and this means if someone says their grandmother has died, we give them the support they ask for, and don’t mock them on the internet.

Tenure, She Wrote

It’s entirely possible that I’m just not cool enough to enjoy this “humorous,” “fictional” take on the the phenomena of students manufacturing dead grandmothers during finals week. Maybe it’s because my own grandmother died while I was in college, my grandfather died while I was in grad school, or another grandmother died in while I was in grad school  (are you keeping track? That’s two grandmothers). I missed her funeral to go to a postdoc interview, which is what she would have wanted (I got the job). As the child of divorced, remarried parents, I had four grandmothers, so if I was so unlucky as to have more than one die during the course of your class, then, gee, I guess I’d be in a pickle!

But seriously, I do not get the mentality of seeing your students as adversaries. I don’t get the need to dehumanize them with your…

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