Re:JBAA papers

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Posted by Steve Holmes2 at 21:42 on 2012 Aug 06

Having left things for a few days to see whether there would be any further posts (and to enjoy a fabulous Olympic weekend!), herewith my next set of thoughts.Thanks to all three of the recent contributors (particularly to the representative of the Silent Majority!), whose comments had a number of common themes. I shall firstly respond to Nick James’ first three points though (concerning papers submission and refereeing)My point about there being insufficient definition of the process did not refer to how to submit a paper (for which there is indeed guidance) but what happens next – I would suggest that there is no guidance about this at all. I would also suggest that what does, in practice, happen next is almost certainly not well-defined and definitely inconsistent. As to there being no discussion entered into after acceptance/rejection, I am happy to see that David Basey seems to agree with me that this is unreasonable. Even if one does not question the decision itself, surely one must be able to question the process by which the decision has been reached if one feels the material has not been fairly assessed?Moving on to Nick’s point about referees, I feel this illuminates one of the areas in this discussion where it seems there has been misunderstanding of the basic principles involved. Nick says that a referee should tell him whether a submission is correct, contains interesting material & is of interest to the Journal readers, and should not be involved in copy editing, technical correction & suggestions for re-writing. Unfortunately, if one consults any standard text on the refereeing of scientific papers, one will find that all but one of these assertions are incorrect!It is clearly one of the responsibilities of a referee to say whether the content of a submission is correct (or at least not incorrect) but, as I have said on a number of occasions, they should not be asked to give an opinion on interest (either generally or specific to a given Journal). "Interest" is not a criterion by which a scientific paper should be judged, and a fully-independent referee is unlikely, in any case, to have a sufficiently comprehensive knowledge of the interests of a readership to be able to give a judgement on this point.As to the "editorial" aspects, I agree that a referee should not involve him or herself in the fine detail of this but, again, a reading of standard treatises on refereeing will show that the making of constructive comments and suggestions for re-working is a fundamental part of a referee’s "job". As to not making technical corrections, surely this is a part of the "correctness" argument? It would hardly be sensible to let blatant errors go uncorrected, and if a referee expresses doubts as to correctness should he/she not provide a refutation rather than just say "I’m not convinced"?I shall now move on the the points where a consensus of views is emerging. Almost all contributors so far have said that they rejoice in the good range of articles published in the Journal. I have already said that I fully support this view. However! This does not mean that the definition of "BAA Journal paper" should be widened in order to include a greater range of subject matter for the Journal as a whole. Nick says that, as the BAA is an amateur organisation, it can use any definition of scientific paper that it wants and Paul appears to agree with this. I find this attitude extremely worrying. Unfortunately, if we wish our Journal papers to stand alongside papers published by other prestigious organisations it is absolutely not the case that we can do what we want. Papers in prestigious journals are published in accord with the internationally agreed definition I stated earlier (and which David agrees is accurate) and so if our papers are to stand comparison they must be published to the same standards. If we start making up our own rules then credibility is lost. We may be an amateur organisation, in that no-one is paid for their duties, but surely we must strive for the highest professional standards in all our actions – and that includes the publication of scientific papers.Again, I totally agree that [most of] those submissions that do not qualify as papers according to the accepted definition should still be published, but in a different section of the Journal – Section reviews, Historical perspectives, Observing seasons etc. This way we still publish the great range of material while maintaining a firm distinction between peer-reviewed papers and articles.I hope that the above will not be dismissed as a mere "what’s in a name?" argument, as the answer in this case is "everything!". A paper published in a science-based journal (as the JBAA is) is a scientific paper and the definition of a scientific paper is not open to us to alter. We should thus work within the definition, publishing as JBAA peer-reviewed papers those submissions that accord with it, to the great advantage of the standing of authors of same and the Journal as a whole, while publishing other "submissions of interest" as articles in other sections. To do otherwise will reflect credit on no-one.I have already given a link to the definition of "scientific paper" in my document reviewing published JBAA papers, so here’s some attachments which explore peer-review in great detail, in case anyone is unsure of the principles which are (or should be!) involved:- [file name=Review.doc size=49152]/images_old/fbfiles/files/Review.doc[/file] [file name=Review1.doc size=72192]/images_old/fbfiles/files/Review1.doc[/file] [file name=Review2.doc size=30720]/images_old/fbfiles/files/Review2.doc[/file]Steve Holmes