27 June 2006

I am a beer reviewer not a peer reviewer

Cyclodextrins are cyclic oligosaccharides of glucose consisting of 6, 7 or 8 glucose units (α-, β-, and γ-cyclodextrin respectively). What makes them interesting to researchers is that one of a gamut of molecules can enter the cavity in the middle of a cyclodextrin molecule forming what is known as an inclusion complex. In fact, there is so much interest in cyclodextrin inclusion complexes that there are international symposia dealing with all aspects of cyclodextrin research.

Cyclodextrins. Drawing from here.

Back in the 1980s I studied cyclodextrin inclusion complexes and published 3 papers, the last one of which came out in 1988. After that, my interests gradually shifted to other fields and eventually from chemistry to evolutionary biology and natural history. Along the way, cyclodextrins became "hollow" memories of a distant past.

Many of you undoubtedly know that a scientific manuscript submitted for publication is normally reviewed by at least one usually anonymous "peer" of the author(s): an unbiased person who is at least as knowledgeable in the subject matter as the author(s) and someone, hopefully, without any animosity towards the author(s). Although I have done my share of peer review of manuscripts dealing with many different subjects, for whatever reason, during the period when I was actively involved in cyclodextrin research, I was never asked to review a manuscript on cyclodextrins.

So imagine my surprise this morning when I received an e-mail from Analytical Biochemistry asking me to review a cyclodextrin manuscript. My initial reaction was one of puzzlement: "Why would they contact me after all these years?" When I scrolled down to the bottom of the e-mail, I saw that the request was from J. B. Alexander (Sandy) Ross, one of the editors of the journal. Sandy was my post-doctoral mentor in the mid-1980s when we both worked at the Mount Sinai Medical School in New York and co-authored one paper on cyclodextrins1.

However, I regretfully turned down the request to review the subject manuscript. Because I don't follow the cyclodextrin literature anymore, I didn't consider myself qualified enough to review it.

Later it dawned on me that I have been publishing papers on snails since 1999, but I have not yet been asked to review a snail manuscript. I am wondering if the editors of malacological journals are waiting for me to quit the field before they will start sending me manuscripts.

Incidentally, here is the Index to the Snail's Tales' Beer Reviews.

1. Örstan, A. & J.B.A. Ross. 1987. Investigation of the beta-cyclodextrin-indole inclusion complex by absorption and fluorescence spectroscopies. Journal of Physical Chemistry, 91:2739-2745.


Clare said...

Amazing - another ex-chemist! I used to work in a similar sort of field - making inclusion complexes from rather simpler moelcules - cryptands which included ferrocene as part of the ring. I have never been asked to review anyone's paper, though.

Quite an honour to be asked, I would think.

Anonymous said...

What a coincidence. I stumbled upon your site using StumbleUpon and I am actually currently studying cyclodextrin/polymer processing. Im in my second year of the Fiber and Polymer Science PhD program at NC State University. I just thought it was interesting to find someone else who studied with similar interests to mine.

Brandon Williamson