So you have poured all your energy into your manuscript, you defended it to your boss, and you have submitted it. That’s done.
And then a few weeks or later, you received the review. #*Q@#*&! What was that that hit you?
Actually, it is neither your first paper nor the first review report you received but it is the same feeling you get – stumped and nashtarded – only because of Reviewer 3. Even Hitler has this to say about the 3rd Reviewer.
Oh, it is always Reviewer 3!
I have to admit that this reply to editor I am currently drafting should be simple relatively. In principle, the paper is already “accepted with mandatory revisions”, but I still feel somewhat *whatever*.
While I bathe in my sorrow for not having a glowing review, I type my most diplomatic and heavenly reply to the editor on a separate document and my rants go here in this blog post. (Ok, my rants are now in bytes’ heaven because they’re not nice.)
This is titled how not to write a “reply to editor” to remind my self that civility, professionalism, and openness are the hallmarks of the peer review process.
So how NOT to write a “reply to editor”?
1. Be super aggressive!
Yes, all scientists can be alpha males when defending their research. All includes females. It is easy to be clouded with emotions. It’s good to feel anger and pain as these make a good reply to editor, an assertive letter. However, there is a fine line between being aggressive and being assertive. The former is hostile while the latter is firm but polite. How do you know which one’s you’ve written? Ask somebody, a neutral person, to read it. Try asking your friends in FB if it’s amiable enough, for example.
There are also ways to diffuse these emotions. Once, I had a co-author who cursed all god names he knows. He said it helps him calm down on writing his reply. If it works for him, why not? I know someone also who runs much faster when he gets reviews, as if it was fuel.
The lesson is to calm down. Do not hurry. Gripe if you must but not in your letter.
2. Don’t mind the review; the review is stupid anyway.
It is easy to dismiss the reviews as something foolish and not worthy of considerations. I guess this will work if the editors are stupid, but they’re not (at least most of them anyway.) But even so…
Reviews give you a different perspective of your research questions, mostly the ones you failed to see (and I hope not the ones you hid under the rug.) A detailed review is worth cherishing, and the reviewer who did it is worth kissing (ok, the reviewer is praise worthy). Why? Well, it means that s/he read the paper and that s/he just tries to squeeze more juice from the paper. It will make the paper better, trust me.
Sometimes, some of the questions of the reviewers can be an easy other paper, a follow up. I know some people who did this. (wink wink)
The lesson is to read the review as though it is a criticism from a best friend. You can argue but you treat the review with much deserved respect.
3. Protest every point of the reviewer, vehemently.
The other end of the spectrum is over analyze every point the reviewer makes and answer everything in the negative. While it is true that one should answer the reviewers’ queries systematically, one should know and acknowledge if the reviewer has a point. Remember that it lessens your credibility (and subsequently, your paper’s) if your answer has no sense.
One particular suggestion from a friend that I have done to make a better reply to editor is to make a three-columned table. In the first column I put the comments of the reviewer. The second column contains my comments that I usually pass around my co-authors minus the boss. The explicit replies are usually written here. The third column is reserved for the comments that will go to the boss. It is a watered down, filtered, and sanitized second column comments. Usually, the third column becomes the first draft of the reply to editor.
Of course, the official reply to editor is the most diplomatic of all the versions.
The lesson is to be systematic and to be sensible.
And then, you submit your reply and keep your fingers crossed while….you do your other research, write another paper, wait for the review, reply to the editor, and then keep your fingers crossed again.
Oh, and hope that the papers are accepted!