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A Question from Jess Drake – Dealing with Conflicting Reviewers

Over the last few months we have covered a range of issues related to the publication of journal articles. A couple of weeks ago we received a question via twitter from Jess Drake aka @soilduck relating to how to deal with conflicting reviewers comments. Jess is a PhD researcher at The Fenner School, Australian National University. During the day, she dabbles in understanding the environment of post-mining landscapes. At night, she writes for her own blog, contributes to online communities, ponders science communication and open science/review, cooks, bakes and brews. In today’s post Jess outlines her concerns then tomorrow and Thursday we shall look at providing some answers. You can read more about Jess and her work here

When reading comments from reviewers, there is that odd occasion that reminds me of being a kid stuck between parents with opposing views. Your Mum tells you to clean your room before dinner. Your Dad tells you it is ok to do it after, but you must do it before you can watch TV.

This creates a lot of confusion for a kid: Who do you listen to? Which one is right? Are they both right? What do you do? Learning how to deal with paper reviews can be the same.

One reviewer might give you some really useful advice. Change the statistics over there. Add another paragraph in your Discussion. Be more concise in your Introduction. Then the second reviewer also gives you really useful advice. Be more concise in your Introduction. Delete a paragraph in your Discussion. Statistics are all fine. Ok, so they both want me to make changes, but they are conflicting. Who is right? Who is wrong? Who do you talk to? What do you do? How do you deal with comments for resubmission?

For me, it has made me feel like a small child again. Grappling with different ideas and rules, and feeling like I am going around in circles.

I asked the team at PhD2Published to answer this question: What do you do when Mum and Dad don’t agree about your paper?

  1. JoVE said on July 5, 2011

    The first thing that comes to mind is that the journal editor should have given you some guidance on this. The reviewers don’t make the decision. They advise the editor or the editorial board. So if the journal is saying “revise and resubmit” they should indicate what the important revisions are.

    In the case where you get a reject and want to use the reviewers comments to improve your paper and submit it elsewhere, then you need to use your own judgement. Do you agree that the statistics need to be improved? If so, do it. Or do you think that this reviewer misunderstood something about what the statistics were trying to show? In that case, maybe you need to make the argument clearer.

  2. Thank you for your responses in tomorrow’s post we will be featuring two editors responses

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