How to respond to peer reviewers' comments: some do's and don'ts
Peer review is an integral part of the manuscript submission and publication process. Peer reviewers' comments can range from minor questions about data to requests for additional data/experiments or questions about the methodology. Addressing peer reviewers’ comments can be quite stressful, particularly when the comments are exhaustive. Here are some do’s and don’ts to help you deal with peer review comments confidently.
- Stay calm: It is a peer reviewer's job to critically assess your research to ensure that it makes a valuable contribution to your field, and they may provide exhaustive comments or suggest a lot of revisions. Receiving a few critical/negative comments is no reason to panic. Stay calm and assess each comment for the value it adds.
- Seek an opinion: Discuss the comments with your coauthors/colleagues who are familiar with your work. They may be able to share a different perspective on dealing with complex reviewer comments.
- Be thorough: Address each comment fully. Do not miss out any points. You could identify each point by numbering it and providing corresponding responses to ensure that you don't skip any.
- Be open to disagreements: You do not have to agree to everything the reviewers say. If you feel that a suggestion, observation, or comment is outside the scope of your research, mention this, too.
- Be polite: When disagreeing with the reviewers, do so politely but reasonably.
- Substantiate wherever necessary: Provide additional supporting data, including references/additional data to support your argument.
- Respond promptly and clearly: Be prompt with your responses and clearly indicate sections that you have changed based on reviewers’ suggestions.
- Do not be averse to receiving feedback or criticism: Do not argue or refute every comment made by the reviewers. Some negative comments might actually be valid and add value to your research.
- Do not respond emotionally: Remember that it is about your manuscript and not about you. View negative feedback as constructive, not personal, criticism and address it with a neutral approach.
- Avoid sweeping opinion statements: Avoid statements such as “we completely disagree” in your rebuttal letter. Stick to construction like, “We agree with the reviewer…but…”. This will ensure that your responses to reviewers' comments are polite but firm and well thought out.
- Do not deny the request of the reviewers for original/raw data. Your refusal to provide additional data might be perceived negatively. It is normal for reviewers to request for orginal or raw data in order to better understand or verify certain aspects of your findings.
For more tips on addressing reviewers’ comments, read this article.