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Re: Elanodactylus, Andres & Ji 2008



if I may ask, who are the "referees"? (not in this individual case, but are they an organization? a review committee?)

Peer-review: The authors send their manuscript to the editor of the journal they want to publish in. If the editor doesn't find it to be (1) off-topic for the journal (in which case a better one is often suggested), (2) utter trash, or (3) not breathtaking enough for the prestigious journal in question (see (1))*, he/she/it/squid sends it to (hopefully) qualified colleagues of the authors, and then, unless they don't have time or declare themselves unqualified for the field in question, these colleagues -- the referees -- read the manuscript and check it** for mistakes, conclusions that don't follow from the data, bad explanations and the like. Then they send their recommendations -- acceptance provided that a long list of modifications is implemented, or rejection -- to the editor, who then sends them to the authors, along with this own decision (rejection, or acceptance provided that the required changes are made). Then the authors scrupulously implement half of the modifications, write an accompanying letter to the editor meticulously documenting that half and even more painstakingly documenting why the other half consists only of the referees being stupid, and send the revised manuscript and the accompanying letter to the editor, who then makes the final decision, which is usually acceptance.


To make sure the referees can speak freely, they are offered anonymity, though they can choose to sign their reviews***. A few journals even conduct double-blind peer-review, which means that the identity of the authors is not revealed to the referees either. However, in small disciplines this can fail. For example, a coauthor and I had a manuscript rejected by such a journal. Of the only two referees, one signed his review, and the other didn't. Based on what the latter's review emphasizes and the style of the review, we are very, very certain about who that is, and we are also certain that he figured out that we were the authors, because we had talked to him about the topic of the manuscript half a year earlier. (Don't worry, we have meanwhile submitted to another journal, after having revised the manuscript based on comments from both reviews.)

* The more widely read a journal, the more submissions it gets, and the fewer submissions it accepts.
** For free. Scientific journals never pay authors or referees.
*** And they commonly do, because then they can be mentioned by name in the acknowledgments, as opposed to "we thank an anonymous reviewer for comments".