How to respond to reviewer comments? (Prof Kautonen and Prof Fink, 03.11.2015)

Background: Teemu and Matthias

  • 50% desk rejected, reviews usually from two or more peers, and great variability in comments.
  • Knowing the people, editor etc in the journal and their preferences is very  useful when directing your paper!!

Key tips: 

  • Avoid a desk reject by: (1) clarify any prior peer reviewing that has already been undertaken. (2) Tailor paper for a specific journal and the conversations currently underway [include citations in that journal!]. (3) Be explicit about papers importance and implications at the outset; its ‘impact’ and ‘contributions’.
  • Dealing with the reviews: (1) don’t just cherry pick the comments you want to address! Do them all – copy all comments in to table and react to each one — ensure all comments have been dealt with [never just put ‘DONE’].
  • Re-submission: (1) write explicit and detailed covering letter to editor and reviewers. Don’t be too emotional, and although you think the reviewers might be wrong, there is the assumption reviewers are right [and usually on reflection-they are]. 
  • The response letter to the Editor: (1) response generally, and to the specific reviewers e.g. ‘Response to reviewer 1’…. (2) the letter must  be grovelling, thank so much for comments, acknowledge the editors and their wisdom.

Types of comments from reviewer, and response strategies:

(1) ‘you have to rewrite the whole thing!’ Editors/reviewers like the idea but theoretical framing insufficient and/or contribution not clear. You need to show contribution to actual discussions on-going. (2) ‘there is something wrong with the method’ [esp quantitative articles]. (3) ‘you need to consider source A, theory B, or perspective C’. (4) ‘you need to explain in more detail XYZ’ [sometimes feels superfluous; but just DO IT]. (5) ‘you need to include something something stupid and/or irrelevant’ [so say, thank you for pointing this out – please refer to page X, or even just pretend that you have newly included!]. (6) ‘comments conflict between reviewers’ – if this is the case, contact the editor and sound out a suitable way forward. If they don’t respond, just go for the reviewer comment who is more critical than the other [and raise this in the letter to the editor about this conflict].

NOTE: Sometimes you will get a comment from the editor saying ‘take seriously X comment’ – then you take seriously and prioritise.

Blogger Q+A:

  • You always have to waver on reviewer comments? Or stick to your guns?
  • Is there a difference between the TYPE of comments you get – depending on the star of the paper?
  • 2 vs. 1 — turned in to a Game – 1st loved it, another mid-way, another hated it. Response to reviewers 1st round — knew who the hater was, and responded politely but knew it was a losing battle – methodological differences. Focused on the middle reviewer to sway the balance. For second review – was 2 vs. 1 edged in our favour. And we played HIM out of the game. Leadership from Editor, despite being a top journal was weak. It worked but a wise strategy?
  • Know who the reviewer is, and know you will meet them — wise tactic to drop in a subtle line about the paper?

 

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