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Peer review: thinking the unthinkable

BMJ 1999; 319 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.319.7213.861 (Published 25 September 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:861
  1. Tim Albert, runs the BMJ's short course for medical journal editors

    I have just been asked to review an article. It has taken between two and three hours of my time. It has cost me £100 or more (I am self employed). In order to return the unsolicited favour, I had to buy a stamp. I am now asking myself: is it all worth it?

    So what is the problem with fewer articles of better quality?

    It took me about two minutes to come to the conclusion that the article was unoriginal and should be well down the editor's list for priority publication. It took about eight more to satisfy myself that my original opinion was sustainable. This is hardly surprising, because the really big judgments (is this boring, plausible, trite, radical, sloppy, intriguing, improbable, useful?) are made quickly. They will, of course, be subjective, but to pretend otherwise would be a delusion. …

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