Graduate Journal

Facing the reviewers

It is somewhat disheartening to reflect on my years of research and then look at the figures I've assembled for my first real research paper. I am proud of my near-finished work, but all those pages of failed experiments are hard to swallow, when I look at just seven pages of pretty pictures.

I can see the hurdles that remain, and most of them involve what I'm doing right now — staring at my laptop. Despite overwhelming mental distraction, I try to focus on writing this paper and imagining the difficult questions that those notorious reviewers might ask. I feel as if I'm 13 and being sent to the principal for smoking, except now it takes four weeks to find out my punishment. I am probably too close to this work to judge its merit: I know the intricacies of the experiments and that the story has some holes here and there.

During my graduate years, I have reviewed dozens of papers for my principal investigator and ripped apart data, suggested experiments or controls, and blatantly stated that this work is not worthy of the journal to which its been submitted. I am scared of getting a reviewer like myself! I'm hoping I am being too hard on myself because I know the work too well. In any case, I hope that the principal is in a good mood and I just get a slap on the wrist.

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Underwood, J. Facing the reviewers. Nature 434, 542 (2005).

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