My ultimate low at as a grad student hit like a ton of bricks. Already reeling from a poor advising relationship and sexism from being a female student working in fluid dynamics, my second dissertation chapter was rejected from a journal. But, it wasn’t the rejection itself that stung and in part led me to choose a new field for my postdoc – it was the personal insults flung at me by both reviewer and editor.
Linda Beaumont’s recent call in Nature for anti-bullying policies for reviewers was born out of frustration at a similar student experience. She suggests stronger codes of conduct, like those we’re seeing for scientific conferences, and to make these codes of conduct more visible, like the prominent placement of “Ethical Responsibilities for Reviewers” material on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal website.
As trainees, grad students and early career scientists are just that – trainees. We’re learning, and the kind of response we need from reviewers and journal editors is one of support. Constructive criticism, the kind that helps us see where and how we can grow, is invaluable. The belittling of trainees doesn’t help us; it just pushes us out the door.