I declare that I don’t own a goldfish…

Yes, I totally understand conflicts of interests, and I also understand that journals have an incentive to indemnify themselves in cases of conflict of interest. At the same time, we’re not getting paid any extra for doing reviews; I could be doing something else. I guess this is why they ask me every time whether I want “recognition” on Publons (no, I still don’t get it), and perhaps on ORCID… but seriously, who comes up with this?

Please complete a declaration of competing interests, considering the following questions:

1. Have you in the past five years received reimbursements, fees, funding, or salary from an organisation that may in any way gain or lose financially from the publication of this manuscript, either now or in the future?

2. Do you hold any stocks or shares in an organisation that may in any way gain or lose financially from the publication of this manuscript, either now or in the future?

3. Do you hold or are you currently applying for any patents relating to the content of the manuscript?

4. Have you received reimbursements, fees, funding, or salary from an organization that holds or has applied for patents relating to the content of the manuscript?

5. Do you have any other financial competing interests?

6. Do you have any non-financial competing interests in relation to this paper?

OK, I guess it’s sometimes worth spelling out what a conflict of interest actually means. (I also guess that most of these points are not really adapted to the social sciences.) Obviously I should not do the review in the first place in the case of a conflict of interest, but the best part comes at the end!

If you can answer no to all of the above, write ‘I declare that I have no competing interests’ below. If your reply is yes to any, please give details below.

That’s right, a tick box is not enough in this case. So please, I want to declare that I don’t own a goldfish — I mean, it could be relevant?

Support for their Hypothesis…

I’m just going through some reviewer comments on a paper I have no stake in at all, and came across this gem:

The study finds support in favour of their hypothesis.

This was highlighted as a key strength of the study. Let’s not quibble about hypotheses here, but let’s focus on the explicit value for a “positive” result. This matters, because it’s peer review, and it’s the standards we have as reviewers that shape what gets published (and where). This focus on positive results does not help us move forward with actually understanding what’s going on — but then a cynic would see a quite different role for publications anyway.

Dear journals…

…can we please universally start accepting tables and figures as part of the manuscript during review (i.e., not at the end)? It’s a pain to either scroll up and down, or open a second instance of the PDF just so that I can actually understand what I’m reading. Yes, I understand that there are historical reasons for this, and it facilitates production, but at the time of writing and reviewing, we have different concerns (plus: production gets paid, I don’t). Journals have managed to move from printed copies to digital copies of the manuscript, so there is no reason we cannot do the next step…

Should I review this?

I have just received an invitation to review an article by a publisher that’s — let’s say “less established”. Given that they have been accused of being a predatory publisher in the past, I was at first positively surprised: There was none of this silly flattering of being a leading expert etc. and they apparently did try to get a proper review. Then came the title and the abstract. It had “public attitudes” in it, and a “scoping review” — so if you allow for synonyms in the keyword search, I can see how their machine picked me, but if no human is involved, neither am I (irrespective of the fact that this was utterly out of my expertise). Maybe we should react with automatized reviews, a fork of SciGen perhaps?