Sunday, 19 December 2010

Reviewers say the darnedest things ...

Lately, I've been revising several manuscripts that have received largely postitive reviews, but which the Associate Editor (AE) deems require "further reconsideration" before they are accepted. Interesting choice of terms, "further reconsideration". Does this mean that the revised ms. will be sent out for review again? Or, will the AE merely glance over the 'response to reviewers' cover letter and check that everything tallies with the requests made by the original reviewers? Worse still, will the AE send it to the reviewer who wrote the longest review because he/she clearly has lots of time on his/her hands? If so, what is the right tone to adopt when writing the cover letter? Smarmy-meets-fair? Defiant-meets-desperate?! We all know AEs don't actually read the manuscripts they've been sent, preferring instead to get the reviewers to do their dirty work.

Anyway, in writing these cover letters and revising the manusripts, I've been keeping myself sane by writing a "real" letter and a "not so real" letter. Here are a few choice terms and phrases from the latter, translated into honest-speak.

1. "We thank the reviewer for raising this important issue."

Translated: "Hate to say it, but you're wrong. You seem to have misread the entire paper. Re-read it. This time, with the light on. Dummy."

2. "The reviewer makes an interesting suggestion for future research."

Translated: "Are you reviewing an imaginary paper or the one that we submitted that reports the findings of 3 huge experiments? What more do you want? One multi-experiment paper on a topic you yourself seem to be quite excited about can only do so much! I shall file this comments under "Future research..." and pad-out the final paragraph with some vague statements about "empirical questions", 'needs further research attention", and "important empirical issues", etc."

3. "The reviewer requests that we comment...."

Translated: In order to pander to the whims of this clearly-deluded reviewer, I have included a few, vague comments as requested, you know, just in case I ever bump into him/her at a conference. Actually, it's probably best if we don't ever meet. I may say/do something I later regret.

4. "The reviewer request that we address these, and other, suggestions, in a revised manuscript."

Translated: "Er, how? How about by writing an entirely new paper on an entirely new topic and submitting to an entirely new journal where, hopefully, the paper may be assigned reviewers who actually know what they are talking about?! Yeah, right. Instead, I shall blow most of his/her arguments out of the water in the cover letter and save the text of the paper for material that actually makes sense and doesn't contravene all known behavioural laws. Sheesh."

5. "We thank the reviewers for their helpful comments."

Translated: "How do I go about requesting that Reviewer 1/2/3 (delete as applicable) is never asked to review any of my work in the future? I can nominate, but how do I black-list?"

6. "The manuscript has been considerably strengthened as a result."

Translated: "If this journal didn't have such a high impact factor, I would have pulled it long ago. Instead, I've learned the art of patience because, crazy maybe, I dream of one day getting promoted...."

This video pretty much sums it up.

Okay, that's enough procrastination. I've got a cover letter to write ....