Academic common room
Revising for a journal - not sure what I am meant to do!
Sometimesonly · 09/04/2021 17:00
Hello. I don't have any experience of this so would really appreciate some expert advice! I submitted an article for publication a year ago and have just had a response. They have sent me the editorial guidelines to use to revise my article along with the results from two blind peer reviews. The problem is that the peer reviews seem to say completely different things e.g. one says "major revisions needed", the other "accept unrevised". One says "inadequate structure", the other "excellent structure". Should I ask for clarification or just go with the easy option?
murmuration · 09/04/2021 17:30
What did the editor say? (and oh, my, a whole year???)
In general, you need to respond in some way to all reviewer comments (even completely off-the-wall ones), and they'll expect some effort at change. So for the one who asked for major revisions, look through and see how you can address each one to some extent. If some are in conflict with the other review, you could either try to argue why the way you've done it is better (this is hard and requires lots of evidence) or pick some kind of halfway point. For example, for the structure, I'd suggest taking a look at it and seeing if there is any type of ordering or signposting you could do better, and then have something along the lines of: "We/I apologise for the confusing structure and have clarified things by XYZ [moving section D before sections B and C/providing clarifying subheadings/moving the discussion of Q to section E/whatever]. As Reviewer #2 felt the structure was 'excellent' we hope this will suffice to make the structure more apparent" or something like that.
Sometimesonly · 09/04/2021 17:54
The editor doesn't actually say anything apart from telling me what the guidelines are and attaching the reviews.
ghislaine · 09/04/2021 18:05
What a cop-out! I had a very similar experience recently. One reviewer said my work was "weak and incoherent" and the other said it was "excellent, thoughtful and fully deserving of publication".
What I did was submit a document to the editor with my suggested revisions, including push-back where I thought the revision was silly idea eg wanting me to look at a case study which had no relevance to what I was doing/probably miffed that I wasn't riding that reviewer's particular hobby-horse eg 'why has the author not looked at the experience of urbanised Japanese when considering the impact of climate change on Caribbean nations? They are both islands' . Er ok, not.
I tried to accommodate both sides but where there was gross conflict I simply said "it seems to me that reviewer 1's suggestion of 'x' should be adopted as the most sensible one....". I wouldn't apologise though, unless you have made a factual error, everything else is in the realm of interpretation and opinion.
I don't think many editors would have such a vested interest in the actual changes so long as you show you have considered them thoughtfully and are prepared to be flexible. If they had wanted to reject it on the basis of reviewer 2's review, they would have done.
DrGilbertson · 09/04/2021 18:49
I had a paper rejected recently post revise and resubmit because at the revise they asked for a better theoretical framing and then they didn't like it. Kind of annoying at the time except ... I don't really write theory. I am much more of a "this was our hypothesis" "this is what we did" "ta dah" academic.
Anyway, it was an American journal so I am putting it down to cultural differences, rather than the fact that I really don't do theory very well.
I had another paper (not first author) rejected from a UK journal for being too theoretical. Made me feel a bit better.
DrGilbertson · 09/04/2021 18:51
PS am clearly just rambling here.
For your revision you could use "it would be possible to do this if the editor requests (suggest XYZ in response to a reviewer point you don't really agree with) but I haven't done it at this stage"
DrGilbertson · 09/04/2021 18:54
PPS although I may not give that impression here I am well respected in my niche geeky area. I would also like to be clear that I do write more than "ta dah" in my papers.
PPPS have you seen this. Still makes me smile www.theguardian.com/music/2014/sep/29/swedish-cientists-bet-bob-dylan-lyrics-research-papers
SarahAndQuack · 10/04/2021 19:39
This might be field-dependent (I'm in English lit/history), but when I got my first journal article back, I had no idea it was legit to say you weren't going to do all the things the reviewers suggested. I painstakingly went through putting in all the changes I could, doubling myself backwards in places (though my two reviews were nowhere near as ridiculously different as yours - that sounds really tricky!).
Then when I submitted the editor told me they wished I'd kept some of it the same, because they preferred the original!
So I'd say if there's something you really, really don't want to change, check in with the editor because they may be perfectly happy with it too.
MedSchoolRat · 10/04/2021 20:47
Personally I jump thru all the hoops I can easily enough, & argue why I can't when I can't jump thru the hoops. I only respond specifically to specific comments: Typo on pg3? Fine, I can fix that. But "weak and incoherent" I wouldn't even reply specifically to that, or say a simple "I hope the many edits I made will now make the narrative seem more coherent & the conclusions better evidenced."
My senior colleague once wrote back a pithy "THE REVIEWER IS WRONG" reply letter which was great, in response to one set of suggested changes. Article got accepted 2 days after that resubmission.
ps: 1 year to get comments back is awful. Argh.
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