Rant: A breed of well-informed idiot
I’m not liking the peer review system right now. Since I’ve started grad school, I’ve had every one of my papers rejected. This leads me to the following theory: reviewers are some breed of well-informed idiot. They may be smart in the field, but I think they don’t read closely. I know that I’m biased into thinking my writing is top notch and that part of the bias comes from putting an inordinate amount of effort into the product, but the reviewers responses on my most recent rejected paper give me the impression that reviewers didn’t understand what I was trying to sell. It’s probably the case that the well-informed nature of reviewers gives them a selective focus, so that they miss what I’m trying to communicate.
Now, I shouldn’t take the review system too personally, because most of the conferences have a 30% acceptance rate (some 12% even). That means reviewers reject by default. Since many academic teams are producing good work, the competition compounds. You must have good work, it must be well-presented, and the paper must both tickle reviewers fancy and simultaneously avoid offence. However, this string of rejections has left me depressed and one of the reviews picked on a sentence that I felt necessary to include in the paper. So some self-righteous indignation is in order (and what a drug it is!).
My technical writing proceeds very slowly. I hem and haw about what words I’d like to use. I try very hard to produce active sentences in E-prime. I try harder to avoid self-referencing (e.g. ‘this paper’ or ‘this work’) because I feel it distances the reader. After some collection of words finally makes it through these hurdles, I then mill it further. I slice and dice. Rearrange clauses, re-order phrases. Vary words and structure to avoid repetition. Most sentences are rewritten 3 times and contain at least 2 ideas before I can finally move on to the next sentence.
Maybe after this extended and thoughtful process I expect too much of my reader. Many ideas are left implicit or implied. Especially, when those ideas are but one logical step away. Reviewers probably prefer ‘short, declarative sentences’ and have neither the time nor the capacity to read carefully and think critically. After all, they have a whole stack of papers to hand out to their grad students. I shouldn’t expect that they should strain their minds in order to perceive details only tacitly suggested.
labelof operator. All other changes, including the introduction of new
Finally, the last reviewer picked on one of my sentences. If I may quote:
This is one of those sentences that I had to change because, even after going through my rigorous sentence assembly process, my post-docs couldn’t identify what I was trying to say in the first draft. The end result, what you see quoted above, is much more clear, and I assure you, quite meaningful. A four page paper doesn’t give one a whole lot of room, so I had to really cram ideas into this sentence. I’m basically saying, as concisely as I know how, all of the following:
- I don’t want my system to feel foreign to such developers.
- Therefore, it is also design with a functional paradigm interface.
Well that rant was longer than I expected. Self-righteous indignation is a hell of a drug.