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Top 10 questions authors have on peer review

A paper that has undergone peer review is considered reliable, so most authors wish to get published in a peer-reviewed journal. However, going through the peer review process often makes authors anxious and nervous. Peer review can be a long-drawn process that involves long waiting periods, understanding the various stages of the review process, dealing with reviewer comments, responding to those comments, and making revisions to the paper based on the comments. When authors have been faced with questions while going through a journal’s peer review process, they have from time to time turned to Editage Insights for advice. Over the years, we have dealt with numerable questions from authors about peer review. And here we present to you the 10 most frequently asked questions. From an author’s perspective, reading these questions would probably help resolve some of your queries; and from an editor’s perspective, these would help you understand the challenges authors frequently face.   

Here are the questions with summarized answers. For detailed answers, please click on the questions.

1. Do I need to provide the names of preferred reviewers to the editor?

Journal editors often find it challenging to appoint reviewers. So if they wish to hasten the publication process, you may be asked to suggest reviewers. If you give the names of preferred reviewers, you should not contact these people separately. The journal will send out review invitations to them if they find these reviewers suitable.

2. What to do if reviewers suggest additional research that will take a year to complete?

While it is understandable that you do not wish to wait for an extra year to publish your paper, you need to consider whether the additional research will add more worth to your findings. Some of the options you have are – change the focus of your study slightly so that the additional research is not required; or if the additional research is not strongly connected with your current paper, you could discuss with the editor/reviewers whether the additional research can be part of another paper. If this doesn’t work and you are convinced that the add-on research is not required, you could consider submitting to another journal.

3. Why has the editor sent me only one reviewer's comments?

Although journals usually send a paper to at least two reviewers, sometimes, it is possible that your paper was reviewed by only one reviewer. Sometimes the editors are unable to find reviewers, in which case they may themselves conduct a detailed evaluation of the manuscript to compensate for the lack of another reviewer.

4. What is the acceptance rate for revised manuscripts with a major revision decision?

The acceptance rate of a revised paper varies across journals and fields, and it is not possible to predict the fate of a paper based on the acceptance rates. If you address the reviewers’ concerns satisfactorily, your paper stands a fair chance of getting accepted.

5. How can I deal with conflicting editor and reviewer comments?

It is not unusual to have conflicting reviewer comments. In such cases, you have to take a call on whether you agree with the reviewer’s opinion or the editor’s. Based on your decision, you should provide a point-by-point response to each of the comments. Additionally, in the covering letter to the editor, explain that you had to choose between some of the comments as they were conflicting, but you have provided reasons for your choice.

6. How to improve a manuscript that has been rejected by 4 journals?

Since all the journals rejected the paper, I think you are either making a major mistake in the type of journals that you are selecting or the paper needs to be improved substantially for it to meet the standards of these journals. With the help of a mentor, try to understand what your paper is lacking and try to improve on the weak areas. You can consider hiring the services of a professional editing company if you feel the need to.

7. Will it be beneficial for my career if I am a reviewer or editor?

Being invited to be a reviewer or editor is an honor and can be beneficial in many ways – it can be a great addition to your CV as this means you are considered an expert in your field; you will increase your knowledge; you will be recognized by the editorial board members who are usually senior professors and scientists; and so on. You should definitely accept the offer unless you have strong reasons for doing otherwise.

8. Should I withdraw my manuscript if the editor cannot find reviewers?

If the editor has clearly stated that he/she is unable to find reviewers, it would be advisable to withdraw your manuscript and submit it to another journal. To withdraw your paper, you need to write an email to the editor informing him/her of your decision to withdraw and requesting a confirmation of the withdrawal.

9. Does an unusually quick peer review indicate rejection?

I don't think there is any clear correlation between the time taken for review and its outcome. On an average, peer review takes anywhere between 1-3 months. You should check the website of the journal to find out the average review time. If the journal has a rapid publication option, it may be quite normal for the review to be completed quickly.

10. Why is my revised paper not being sent for a second round of review?

It is possible that the editor or a member of the editorial board has expertise on this topic and, therefore, they have decided to go ahead with an internal review rather than an external review. If the editor does not feel the need to send it for review once again, and if he/she feels equipped to take a decision without a review, it might not be sent for a second round of review.

If you would like to share your experiences while undergoing the peer review process, please comment below. And if you have any questions about peer review, please send them to us.  

Image credit: shutterstock.com

 

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