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March 28, 2002
Cruel to Be Kind
There's an interesting post over at A Dog's Life about the comments that the reviewers of scientific papers make. These comments are (ahem) supposed to be confidential, but good ones do get around.
I don't have enough of those to contribute much to Gregory Hlatky's list, but I do have one that shouldn't be left out (although it's one of those jokes that's largely only funny to chemists.) A famous prize-winning chemist, unnamed by me, was being visited by the second-hand-source of my story. Although getting old, the famous one was still publishing plenty of papers - perhaps more papers than some people wanted to read.
In fact, he'd just had a paper rejected by the Journal of the American Chemical Society, where he was accustomed to publish. "Look at these referee comments!" he said, showing the reviewer's report to my source. "Can you believe they can write things like this?" This fellow's biggest problem wasn't believing it; it was keeping a straight face as he read: "This paper should be substantially reduced. Either that, or it should be completely oxidized."
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