What If We Knew What Reviewers Said About Other Grants

On Amazon you can see the reviewer history. You can see what other products they’ve reviewed, and what they said. Would a similar approach be useful in academia? Would that make receiving a negative review easier?


Good day there, bakers, writers, and rock stars. Dr. Richard Huysmans here. Talking today about what reviewers might have said about your work, and what the benefit of knowing what they said about others’ people work might have to you. So, this is more of a philosophical thing than anything else.

I was listening to episode of This American Life, episode 695. It’s called everyone’s a critic. It was an interview between the host Ira Glass, and an author who was checking out what other people had said about the author’s book on Amazon. Obviously, as an author you get really excited when people write positive things but also really downhearted when people write negative things. This author saw negative comments like, “No, no, no”, and “I’ll never get that time back”. Obviously, that was hurtful for that author. What they ended up doing was, and you can do this on Amazon for any kind of review from what I’ve seen, you can click on the reviewer.

So, let’s say it was me, Dr. Richard Huysmans and you can see what else I’ve reviewed, and how I’ve reviewed it. So, this author went down the path of looking at all of the reviews that they’d got that were negative and seeing what else these people had reviewed. And the people who’d reviewed all sorts of things from cake stands to balls of wool, and it made the review that they received for the book less hurtful to the author, because the author now was applying a bit of judgment. Saying well, if this person gives a ball of wool 5 stars, no wonder they’re not interested in my book. They’re so simple. Or if this person gives a cake stand 5 stars, no wonder they’re not interested in my book. They’re into baking. They don’t like philosophy or whatever it might be. So, then it got me thinking about well would that make it easier for us to hear reviewers’ comment about our work if we’d known what they’d said about other people’s work.

And again, this is not about identification or being able to point them out or anything like that. It’s just satisfying our own need to improve the way we respond to a grant reviewer or a journal article reviewer’s comment on our work, in order to make them more palatable to us as the author. You know would knowing whether they had reviewed another article and rejected it that ultimately got published in a good journal. Or would knowing that they reviewed another article and accepted it, but when you read that same article, you think the science, or the research is not that great. You know would that help you dismiss those comments or would it make it harder.

I’d love to know. So, if you’re watching or listening to this, I’d love to know in the comments what do you think would knowing reviewers’ other comments on other work be helpful or a hindrance to help you navigate their response to your work.

Take care.