I have been asked to review a paper for a rather low ranking journal. I am not knocking the journal, it serves a purpose for a popular sub field in which I've done some research. The reason the editor asked me to review was that I co-authored a paper that was published in said journal and cited in the paper I've been asked to review.
I pride myself in being a very conscientious reviewer. With my shiny new PhD, I'm only asked a few times a year and I want to be known as a good reviewer, especially by editors for the journals in which I'd like to publish. I also REALLY appreciate well written reviews that obviously indicate that the reviewer took the time to read and evaluate my work (even if it's not a positive review).
I am struggling with this paper that I've been asked to review in a way I have never struggled before. The author is obviously not a native English speaker. The grammatical, word choice, and sentence structure issues that make it clear that the author is a non-native speaker are also making it nearly impossible to get through the article. I want to make it clear that these writing issues are very serious. I have to read and re-read each section trying to figure out exactly what the author is trying to say. Sometimes there are words missing from the sentence so that I have to figure out what may be missing to make the sentence make any sense at all. It's an incredibly frustrating process, as it really clouds the science which is what I'm trying to evaluate.
I haven't even finished reading the article as it is taking me 3x longer to read each section that I would have expected. So here's my dilemma. Should I even write a real review for this piece?
On one hand I want to send the editor a note saying that the writing issues make it impossible for me to evaluate the science and therefore I can't do the review. On the other hand, I do not ever refuse to do a review and feel guilty for even wanting to do this. When I agreed to do this review I had no idea the time and energy it would take and I feel like it's such a waste of time trying to figure out what the author is trying to say. Even if I write a full review my #1 comment has to be that the paper needs to be completely re-written to ever appear in the journal.
As another issue, I am also wondering whether the editor even read any of the paper. How could they have missed the major writing problems with this paper? I suspect that this journal never triages any of their papers (not many in my field do, almost every one of them send out every paper to be reviewed), so even if the editor noticed the writing issues perhaps they still have to send it out via journal policy.
So I'm interested in hearing from all of you.
1. Would you write a thorough review or just let the editor know that it's unreasonable to review the manuscripts current state? I am also curious to hear whether you would do the same thing if the paper was just really poorly written but it was not clear that it was a language issue (i.e. you knew the person was a native speaker of the language or it wasn't as clear cut as it is in the case of this particular manuscript)?
2. Do you this (or if you are an editor, do you) editors should read at least some of the article prior to sending it out for review?
3. Do you think that editors should send out papers even if they know there are major writing issues with the paper?
4. Does your field do any triaging? Are you pro and anti this process?
I'm really interested in hearing what other have to say.