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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 54  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 591-

Where are the letter writers? And the referees?


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How to cite this article:
. Where are the letter writers? And the referees?.Indian J Cancer 2017;54:591-591

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. Where are the letter writers? And the referees?. Indian J Cancer [serial online] 2017 [cited 2020 Feb 26 ];54:591-591
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Researchers/authors submit papers after months of research and writing. Yet, researchers are often not perfect in their research. Editors decide whether the research is worth publishing, usually based on the advice of peer reviewers. Yet, neither these referees nor editors always get it right, in their assessment of the science and sometimes, a paper with an error may get published. Often, minor errors in interpretation creep into the paper. Most often, statements are made, which are correct, based on the data that the researchers have generated – but which could well have another interpretation.

This is where the readers come in. Readers of the articles in the journal – in this case, Indian Journal of Cancer - often write Letters to the editor commenting on the errors of the authors inferences. Sometimes, an article may serve as a peg to make a point or raise an issue that may tangentially be related to the paper in question. Not that readers are perfect – which again may result in a lengthier discussion of the subject at hand.

Letters to the editor have been described, quite appropriately by Dr Peush Sahni, as the “post-publication debate” on the article. Which leads me to the issue: where are the letter writers? Letters to the IJC are rare, implying that most readers accept the articles as gospel and do not question the conclusions. This is not how science is to be done. We urge readers to send in their comments and thoughts on the articles, so that all – readers, authors and editor – can benefit from them.

The Letters column is often an area where young researchers make their debut. It is perhaps the only section where you can slip in humour in an otherwise staid medical journal. Why not make the most of it?

The other issue I wish to bring up is this – where are the referees? Why is it that the same authors who can spend months on their research and then expect peer review for free and as quickly as possible reject invitations from the editor to referee a paper by someone else? The entire scientific community is dependent on each other, in a symbiotic relationship. This breaks down when one side of the partnership decides not to honour its role. To my surprise, this includes referees who have submitted papers to the IJC, but rejected the invitation to review a paper. The invitation, incidentally, lasts for only two days - if you fail to accept the invitation immediately, your name is removed from the list.

No editor likes to delay responses to authors. But the editor depends on the referee. That, dear reader, is often you. It depends on you to act with alacrity and help the cause of science and that of your colleagues and that of IJC.

Sanjay A Pai, Vinay Deshmane and Anita M Borges