Comment . . . .

. . . and reply later? Or comment and reply now?

What is this about? In an era of blog posts and open-access review, the classic means of having a scientific discussion is the comment and reply.  Comments are generally short pieces that are intended to point out factual or logical errors in a published paper; the replies are for the original authors to refute (if they can) what the comment says.  Oftentimes readers discover that one side or the other missed the point, which can be helpful.

Different journals have had different policies on comments and replies (or discussions or whatever other label might exist).  In earth science, journals like Geology and GSA Bulletin have usually published the comment and reply together.  Some other journals like the Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, have chosen to publish comments once they have been reviewed and only then are the original authors invited to prepare a reply, one that will show up months later.

The argument for comments and replies showing up together is that this is a conversation; missing half of it can lead to misunderstandings (such as the impression that the original authors do not disagree with the comment). The argument against is that by putting authors under time pressure to produce a reply, the quality of the reply is compromised and may be ill-thought through, or if not pressuring the original authors, the authors of the comment are treated poorly if the comment takes forever to come out.

FYI, this was all prompted by the decision of the Geosphere editors (a sister publication to Geology and GSA Bulletin) to use the “publish the comment now and the reply later” strategy, which felt really odd to many if us familiar with these other GSA journals (if you want to weigh in on this strategy, pro or con, contact the Geosphere editors–I am not providing a direct link as really it should only be publishing geoscientists bothering these guys.  If you publish, you know how to find them).

So we’ll try a first-ever poll of those of you brave enough to wander into this blog. What do you think should be the standard? And of course feel free to comment on this whole comment and reply thing…




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