One of the most useful things for an academic is rapid honest criticism. Honest, because having a colleague delude you with praise into sending a manuscript off when its not ready wastes everybody’s time, and
Rapid because, well, we do want to get these manuscripts off our desk and into the arena. This is not to say that every manuscript doesn’t deserve a rest period sometime during its gestation–allowing it to sit in its folder and ferments a bit. But at some point, you’ve got to get that suckka off your desk. But it still needs that one critical read. Who ya gonna call?
Your 24-hour buddies, that’s who. These are the carefully selected cadre of colleagues whose work you enjoy and whose opinion you respect. They don’t have to do exactly what you do–in fact, its better that they have some distance from your research area (better to spot the jargon). These are your go-to guys and gals, when you want quick feedback. 24-hour feedback. What’s in it for them? The same deal: 24-h turnaround on a manuscript. This is a MARs pact: Mutual Assured Reviews.
To make this work smoothly–because we’re all incredibly busy, right;-)?–there are two ground rules:
1) Email one of your 24-hour buddies and ask for the 24-hour treatment. If she responds yes, you send her the manuscript right away.
2) Within 24 h she sends you a short email review. Now this is not an in-depth, nit-picky review. This is a read-it-in-one-sitting-composing-the-email-as-you-go review, in which your 24-h buddy tells you what she thinks the paper is about, the red-flags that caught her eye, and a journal or two where she thinks it would fit.
In short, its your last opportunity for a mid-course correction before you dive into the last-stage of spellcheck, citation check, and formatting for the journal. And it is a rare day in the week when you can’t carve out an hour, by moving things around, when a 24-h buddy comes a callin’.
And did I say that you get it the paper back in 24 hours?