Today I saw a headline about a foolproof method to sleep in sixty seconds. As is often the case with headlines, there was a lot of exaggeration. In fact, it was just a method of breathing that consists of inhaling for 4 seconds, holding the air for seven seconds and exhaling for eight seconds. The 4-7-8 technique, for short.
And you know what? It really works! At least it worked for me in the last couple of nights, when I went to bed feeling too anxious to fall asleep. Sounds familiar?
The reason for my sleepless nights was an unpleasant decision I had to make. After more than ten years as an evaluator for a scientific journal (for more info about my secret identity as a sequential art researcher, read more here), for the first time I issued a negative opinion, recommending not only the rejection of the article, but also that the author revise, well, everything: spelling, methodology, references.
It was not an easy decision to make. Ok, I know that having an article rejected in a scientific journal is far from being the worst thing that can happen to someone, but I also know there is always a lot of time and working involved in it. That is the reason why my comments to the author were very respectful and I also included a series of suggestions, among which that a new version should be submitted to the journal.
In other words: in the worst scenario, the whole episode will help this researcher to learn the ropes and produce a much better article next time. Even so, I felt really bad. Why? After all, saying “no” is part of the duties of an evaluator. True, but yet it was the first time for me. “Publish after the suggestd changes” was the worst appreciation I had to give so far.
It made me wonder: with so many tools, tutorials and all kinds of apps available, why are people writing in such a sloppy way? Probably for the same reason that even with all kinds of cameras and everybody taking pictures all the time, we keep taking the same endlessly repeated “in-front-of-the-mirror-selfie”, over and over again .
Back to the rejected article, I was also surprised by the fact that it was actually submitted to a scientific journal. How many readers did the text have before me? Nobody (a friend, a research colleague, an advisor) suggested changes or, at least, a grammar revision?
Which link in the protocol chain of producing scientific knowledge was broken? And when did that happen? Actually, such questions could be addressed to various aspects of the current aesthetic production, too. Are we getting used to doing everything sloppily?
Sorry for bringing up so many questions. I hope it does not bother your sleeping, but just in case…. breathe.
Be seeing you!