The current Harper’s reprints Environmental Microbiology’s annual list of selected peer reviewer comments on submitted articles, featuring such snark as “this manuscript has nearly sucked the will to live out of me” and “This is an interesting manuscript, not because of its results, but because of its complete ignorance of the scientific process”. The proper role of a scientific journal editor is to delete such comments from the review, rather than lionize them in a year end collection that will only serve to stimulate more such remarks in the future.
Nasty remarks impede the scientific enterprise by crushing the spirit of very bright people who take such remarks personally and thereby do not revise and resubmit quality scientific work. And such people are not a random sample of all authors: Women scientists are particularly likely to retreat when faced with an abusive review. Whether they intend it or not, the editors of this journal are engaged in institutional sexism as well as bad manners.