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May 25, 2010
A Word to the Wise
Today's entry on an embarrassingly wrong structure in Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters has a number of people in the comments talking about experiences they've had reviewing for the journal. I've done reviews for them myself, naturally, as well as for other journals. I have too few examples to judge from, but (so far) I have managed to kill off papers at other journals, but I have never managed to kill off a manuscript at BOMCL. I have - apparently like some other people - recommended in the past that a paper be published (if at all) only with major revisions, only to see it sail through basically untouched.
I hope I'm not being unfair here, because there are a lot of hard-working people at the journal. And similar stories can, I'm sure, be told about every other journal (in every other discipline). But I think that BOMCL gets so many manuscripts that their workload is very high. Unfortunately, the journal also publishes a great deal of what it gets. We're unlikely to see the real figures any time soon, but I'd have to guess that the percentage of papers rejected is definitely lower than average.
I also realize that I'm open to accusations of conflict of interest here, since I'm on the editorial board of a competing journal, ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters. What I can promise is that I will, in fact, work to keep any papers that I consider inadequate out of those pages (and, at the same time, to encourage good work to go there). I've tried to do that with BOMCL, too, in my capacity as reviewer, but it just hasn't always worked out.
But perhaps this is something I can do for them: to point out, publicly, that their credibility as a venue for medicinal chemistry results has suffered recently. When people get the impression that work is being sloppily reviewed at a given journal, they wonder how much they should trust the other papers that get published. Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters has been around for twenty years now, and has published some very useful stuff over the years. There's a real place for it in the publishing world. But it's been better than it has been recently, and it should be better than it is. I hate to say this. But someone should.
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