Every December the journal Environmental Microbiology shows just how harsh the seemingly staid process of peer review can be, offering up a collection of snarky, funny, and otherwise memorable quotes from peer review critiques of the past year. (Remembering, of course, that "funny" is relative and depends largely on how far removed you are from the situation.) Some choice excerpts:
The finding is not novel and the solution induces despair.
The writing style is flowery and has an air of Oscar Wilde about it.
The writing and data presentation are so bad that I had to leave work and go home early and then spend time to wonder what life is about.
Thankfully, it's not all bad news.
I perused this manuscript while in the hotel prior to a friend's wedding. I was suspicious that a state of relaxation had influenced my enjoyment of a paper on soil formation; so I read it again, this time squashed between two large people on the delayed flight home, and still enjoyed reading it.
I really wish this annual article were available free to the public. It's a rare peek at daily life in the backrooms of science, and a valuable reminder that science is just a job, performed by people—rather than a series of stone tablets handed down from on high. It's great to see the push and pull, and very human personalities, that drive the search for truth. Sadly, you can only read this article with a subscription. These quotes come from Cesar Sanchez' Twisted Bacteria blog. I've linked the original article above, but if you want to read more quotes—and you aren't already paying for Environmental Microbiology—Twisted Bacteria will probably be more useful to you.
Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.