Quality of peer review depends on quality of referees
Manfred Kroger’s Back Page article, “Peer Review—Another Form of Quality Control” (January, p. 104) was a really elucidatory contribution, necessary and indispensable to the scientific community and the readers of scientific journals.
However, the quality of the refereeing system depends on the quality of persons serving this system. Quality control here is difficult and cumbersome. In general, it must be assumed that referees represent the quality of the community they come from, i.e., the quality of potential contributors.
And here is the point: that still (too) many papers lack a sound presentation of data, which must include uncertainty information and reasoning on biometric procedures applied. A lot of significance testing is published, but considerations are not given on the justification for the test. And once the mathematics result in the judgment “Not significant,” some authors seek the escape that a “significant tendency” was observed.
As a consequence, a journal has to take care that this fundamental aspect of quality is enforced through proficient refereeing. This might be a thankless job for referees, as I experienced in my service to some journals.
—Dieter Ehlermann, Director and Professor, Dept. of Process Engineering, German Federal Center for Food and Nutrition, University of Karlsruhe, Germany
• Author Kroger responds: Professor Ehlermann’s comments are very much appreciated. Indeed, the scientific community must be reminded periodically that the review process for refereed journals is absolutely necessary; and that it behooves each member to contribute willingly and conscientiously. Such professional activity must be rewarded by our institutions and employers. How else can we assure that scientific findings are taken seriously by consumers and public policy decision makers? The process of refereeing must not be a thankless task. Editors do have great respect for competent and reliable reviewers, and I am certain most authors do, too.
I do agree with Professor Ehlermann that there is much variability in the quality of published papers and their referees. So, it also behooves readers to comment on shoddy output by questioning the improbable and pointing out bad workmanship.
Something is wrong in Fellows election process
I am concerned about the process involving the election of candidates nominated from industry to IFT Fellow. I have had discussions with numerous colleagues pertaining to the matter of IFT Fellows, and I want to share those concerns with the membership, because I believe that something is wrong with this process, and it needs to be fixed. I would like to share my thoughts on this subject and what can be done now to remedy the situation.
The basic problem is that none of the Fellows elected in the past two years have been from industry. It is difficult to understand why, as an Institute, we cannot seem to find some/any industrial nominee who has made significant contributions to the profession of food science and technology. Something is wrong!
As a Fellow, a past member of the Fellows Award Jury, and subsequent Chair of that Jury some 20 years ago, I was intimately involved in the redesign of the original nomination form and very instrumental in designing a numerical system for the judging of scholarly achievement. Within that context and during the past 20 years, I have nominated numerous candidates from both industry and university. Also, I have supported candidates from industry, university, and government nominated by other Fellow colleagues. All of these candidates who had made outstanding contributions to our chosen field were elected to Fellowship. Now, and for the past two years, no one from industry has been named a Fellow, even though many outstanding individuals from industry were nominated for a second time because the jury had asked that the names of these candidates be resubmitted. Something is wrong!
I am concerned that, in our inability to honor individuals from industry for their scholarly contributions we might simply turn off the flow of Fellow candidates from industry and/or alienate industry’s involvement with IFT. In either case, that could be a disastrous situation for our Institute. In addition, I am also concerned that perhaps we may be sending a wrong message to a very important industrial segment of our IFT membership. That message could be one that erroneously suggests that when it comes to the innovative and scholarly contributions emanating from industry that these are simply not good enough. Something is terribly wrong!
Within the above context, I recommend to the Fellows Award Jury that it modify its selective process to involve two or even three different subcommittees, each with appropriate member representation for handling candidates from (a) universities, (b) government agencies, and (c) industry. Furthermore, each of these subcommittees should go through the same rigorous process of reviewing, ranking, and selecting an equal (10, 8, 5, or whatever) number of Fellows from their respective pool of candidates. This system should maintain the same high standards required in selecting Fellows, with only the focus for each group being different.
Finally, I urge my colleagues on the Fellows Affairs Committee, the Awards Committee, the Executive Committee, and others to resolve this matter speedily. Creating another task force to review the whole Fellows program and report back in June 2000 with a possible solution for implementation in 2001 is not helpful to the immediate problem. The critical issue at hand is why are we no longer electing Fellow nominees from industry and how do we fix this problem now?
To my fellow IFTers and to my Fellow colleagues, I say we need to resolve this issue now because something is terribly wrong!
—André Bolaffi, President & CEO, Bolaffi International & Foodservice Advanced & Technology, Inc., San Francisco, Calif.
• Editor’s note: President Charles H. Manley has appointed an IFT Fellows Award Task Force whose charge is to revise the system for selecting new IFT Fellows to enhance representation of all key segments of IFT membership. The task force is to develop, by June 9, 2000, recommendations for action by the Executive Committee.