This week’s story about Rashard Mendenhall’s offensive tweets following Osama bin Laden’s death is also a story about the peer review process.
One of my colleagues has argued that blogs and twitter provide a mechanism for quick, informal, and sometimes brutal peer review, and I think he’s right.
Mendenhall released a few controversial comments on twitter, one of which was offensive to many (“We’ll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style”). His comments were reviewed by journalists, his boss, and the general public (his peers!)
Soon thereafter, Mendenhall responded to his peers’ comments. This is what I found amusing. Mendenhall apparently deleted his offensive tweet and responded only to his other controversial-but-less-offensive tweets. I noticed that journalists and bloggers were not fooled–they called him out for failing to address all of the issues that were made. Many of the articles by these journalists were given titles about how Mendenhall “tries” or “attempts” to clarify his remarks. Let this be a lesson to anyone who doesn’t diligently response to every point in a journal review!
Twitter isn’t perfect. The peer review process isn’t perfect. In fact, the peer review process can be downright excruciating if you’re the author. Twitter makes you the author, and tweeting is like sending a paper out for review. You risk incurring the wrath of the reviewers, especially if you ignore their feedback and respond to something else.
I enjoy my colleagues tweets immensely, but I don’t like most celebrity tweets. I find it somewhat reassuring that something good has come out of twitter: it teaches most celebrities about the peer review process (the hard way).