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The Peer Review System and the Editor's Correspondence

David H. Spodick, MD, DSc
Arch Intern Med. 1981;141(9):1121. doi:10.1001/archinte.1981.00340090017004.
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The prevalence of human frailty makes the peer review system an imperfect, though perhaps the best, method of judging scientific work for publication. It is the frequent subject of editorials and essays, mainly by editors, and the constant subject of curses, mostly unuttered, by successful, as well as unsuccessful, authors. In recent years, the peer review system's tightening noose has made the label "revision accepted" almost inescapable. Although one trusts that most reviewers do a conscientious job, sticking strictly within their competence, disappointed authors can cite exceptions, excessive demands, and plain sniping. It is less well recognized (because it hurts fewer authors) that reviewers' imperfections extend in the other direction. Errors of fact and theory, slipshod methods, and occasional completely misleading communications have successfully evaded their eagle eyes.

A traditional function of letters to the editor has been to report observations that may not merit a full article, eg, the


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