233 – Journal refereeing

Peer review of research is a key mechanism for quality control used in science. Unfortunately, some reviewers (or referees) perform their task in a hard and heartless way.

Back in 2002 I published a poem about this in a refereed journal article. I’m pretty pleased with this – you don’t see many poems in refereed journals. This week, somebody told me that my poem had been included (with praise such as, “a beautiful piece of work”) on a web page of econometric poetry. I then did a search and, apart from finding the original paper, I found it reproduced on three other pages (here, here, here), and referred to on several more. Isn’t the web marvelous?

In case you haven’t seen it, here it is.

I’m The Referee
David J. Pannell

You’ve posted in your paper
To a journal of repute
And you’re hoping that the referees
Won’t send you down the chute

You’d better not build up a sense of
False security
I’ve just received your manuscript and
I’m the referee

This power’s a revelation
I’m so glad it’s come to me
I can be a total bastard with
Complete impunity

I used to be a psychopath
But never more will be
I can deal with my frustrations now that
I’m a referee


The poem is therapeutic, as was the paper it was published in (Pannell, 2002), so if you’ve suffered at the hands of referees, you might want to read that too.

Further reading

Pannell, D.J. (2002). Prose, psychopaths and persistence: personal perspectives on publishing. Canadian Journal of Agricultural Economics 50(2), 101–116. Here ♦ IDEAS page for this paper


  • Rob Fraser
    4 March, 2013 - 5:56 pm | link

    Dave – good to see you getting the recognition you deserve (again!)
    Best wishes

  • Liz Petersen
    5 March, 2013 - 10:16 am | link

    Pure therapy!

  • Roger Crook
    5 March, 2013 - 3:07 pm | link

    I am the very model of a modern Major General, watch, the words nearly fit,

  • Henry Haszler
    6 March, 2013 - 1:59 pm | link

    Hi David

    Nice effort.

    My point on referees is that they can be so incompetent.

    NO, this has nothing to do with articles I have submitted. Rather it has to do with my detailed reviews of some articles in the Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics. Yep, I know, close to home.

    The instances of what I would categorise as inadequate refereeing refer to articles on wool. Not very fashionable these days but I believe the flaws in the refereeing resulted in huge damage to the wool industry and Australia.

    Offhand I can think of 3 or 4 instances. Sure on a quick read the articles sound OK but examine the conclusions and even the judgements based on the cited literature and there are flaws that I believe more careful reviewing should have exposed.

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