So I am contributing a book chapter on transport for a handbook on environmental ethics, and I got a critique of an earlier draft from a philosophy Phd student, who put in all sorts of lovely suggestions, but at the end, in a final comment, says, “I think you need to restructure the whole thing.”
Arrrrrrrrrgh. Now, it’s entirely possible that I have made a mistake in structure, but I re-read the whole thing and I don’t see the need to restructure. And moreover…I would never tell anybody to restructure without suggesting a possible structure that strikes me as an improvement. I got to wondering: is this a field difference? Structure in argument is so important to philosophy; perhaps it would be bad form for a reviewer in that context to tell others how to structure an argument. It’s possible. For me, the “restructure” comment seems a bit facile; of course you can structure an argument multiple different ways. I structured it the way it made sense to me. If it doesn’t make sense to you, tell me why to at least give me a lead on what I might do differently. Or if your own structure is so fabulous, go write that chapter and leave me to mine.
As a reviewer, when I complain about something, I feel some duty to suggest an out. Of course, some things can’t be fixed, but then there are rejections on the one hand and suggested caveats on the other. There are methods fixes. It’s not your job to educate other other authors, but pointing people to possible solutions strikes me as the least a reviewer ought to do.
It’s one of the problems with service-related work in an environment of university corporatism. Reviewers aren’t paid, usually, and as a result, they rather feel like an author and journal editor should be grateful for whatever reviewers feel like giving, and many a time when I am reviewing a particularly problematic piece I, too, get fed up and think “It’s not my job to figure out your problems for you.” And yet something a bit more than “This blows” also strikes me as in order.