Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Monday, November 26, 2007

An open letter to an anonymous author...

Dear Sir or Madam,

In all likelihood you don't know me, but I am presently one of the anonymous reviewers for your recent journal submission. How are you? I am fine. Well, really, I am exceedingly busy, which is the primary reason for my note to you today. I am writing, you see, to apologize. Today is the deadline set by the journal of our mutual acquaintence for my review of your work. As you might have guessed, this is not a deadline that I will be hitting. I am rather strongly vexed at this, as I have never before failed to return a review within a four-week span, but there is nothing else for it. Deadlines more pressing than this one have been intervening consistently over the past several weeks and, as a result, I have been unable to spare the time to write down my thoughts on your work. Additionally, my home computer has spontaneously developed a memory-related problem that may not be repairable without the investment of significant time and money.* Having waited with baited breath for reviews myself, I do feel great sorrow at prolonging your own ordeal.

So long as we are on the subject, however, I would be remiss if I didn't point out that in writing your paper you did not make matters easy on me. I am, in truth, uncertain exactly what decision to recommend for your work. On the one hand, I find your theoretical argument interesting and reasonable. Additionally, you synthesize existing literature in a way that makes intuitive as well as theoretical sense. Your larger-level substantive commitment is, likewise, intriguing and worthy of further discussion. On the other hand, in your zeal you perhaps overstate your claims and potentially gloss over areas in the literature that warrant scrutiny. Of more concern to me, however, are certain of your methodological choices. You employ sophisticated forms of quantitative analysis and do so at an appropriate time but, in the process, make a mistake that betrays a certain lack of comprehension. Not comprehension of the method, necessarily, but rather in how the method interacts with theory to produce a valid and reasonable hypothesis test. You notice this issue yourself, sort of, in that it prevents your findings from being quite as robust as they would be otherwise but your strategy for dealing with the problem is to go chasing off after questionable arguments dealing with repeated measures. There are much, MUCH simpler** solutions and, as a result of all this, I am left worrying that you don't have the slightest damned idea what the hell you're doing.

I'm sure that I will reach a decision soon and, shortly thereafter, will send a review to the journal editor. I hope that this review is favorable, if only because it will make you happy, but I can't guarantee that. At the very least, this paper needs additional work before it can see publication. In the meantime, while I am preparing my thoughts, I suggest you press forward on your other papers.

Again, I am sorry for the delay, and hope not to extend your torment any longer than necessary.


Drek the Uninteresting

* Specifically, I may have to replace one or more RAM chips which, given the state of my PC tower, might require that I dismantle most of two drive bays.

** Not to be insulting but, seriously, we're talking solutions that could occur to an astute undergrad who paid attention in stats class.

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