how to respond to referees

December 15, 2009 at 10:42 am | | how-to, literature, science community

Now that I’ve listed some pointers on how to write a referee report, I want to discuss how to respond to reviews of your own manuscript. Again, I’m still a novice at this, so I’d love input from the audience!

  1. Try not to be offended. It’s hard not to, but try not to hate the reviewer when they criticize your manuscript. Usually, I get one referee who says the paper is great and another who says it’s crap. It’s hard not to want to hurt that latter type. Bad. But they might be partially right, so correct the issues they find that have merit, and defend your original manuscript against the foolish criticisms.
  2. Organize your response. I like to make tables with one row being the referee’s comment and the other being my response, with each comment on a separate row. Any way you do it, respond to each referee point-by-point. In your cover letter to the editor, summarize the major requests by the referees and the main changes in the revised manuscript.
  3. Stand your ground when you’re right. Don’t make changes that make your manuscript worse. If the referee is wrong about something, say so (gently). Your goal is the editor seeing that you are right. If you’re too rude in your response to an incorrect referee, the editor may think you protest too much and become suspicious.
  4. …but don’t pull an Einstein. Sometimes referees find a problem with your science or reasoning that, no matter how much it pains you, is worth seriously considering. Referees can make your papers much better, so it is important to listen to them.

Number 1 is the one I have the most problems with. I don’t understand why some referees have to be so unreasonable and wrong when writing their reports. I¬†usually¬†draft very snarky responses, only to replace them with polite disagreement before sending my revisions to the editor. And complain to friends a lot. Not sure if that helps me or keeps me angry.

Others?

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  1. […] I’ll talk about how to respond to referee reports of your own manuscripts.) | 6 Comments […]

    Pingback by Everyday Scientist » how to referee a paper — December 15, 2009 #

  2. Referee reports are an exercise in politeness. I typically let loose in my separate report to the editor—however I *always* have someone outside the project read it because, oftentimes, I am capable of being petty and dickish. Thank God for kind and helpful colleagues!

    Comment by joel — December 22, 2009 #

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