Q: What to do if reviewers suggest additional research that will take a year to complete?
A few months ago, I wrote and submitted a paper about an education program. The contents are: “Regarding some possible education program, I made a questionnaire survey for the participants to ask if they think each program is attractive or not, then I proposed some program based on the survey result.” While the paper was peer reviewed and the reviewers showed interest about contents and results, their final view was that “the proposed program should be actually executed based on the results and the participants’ impression should be confirmed. Thus, this study is still in halfway and incomplete”. So far I am not taking further action and consider putting on hold this study due to following 3 reasons:
1. Due to various reasons, the proposed program cannot be executed actually. For example, some items that were evaluated as “not attractive” must be included in the program depending on various reasons.
2. If the education program is executed, it will be the next year at the earliest, and the participants’ feedback would be received 2 years later. So, if I would do an additional study, I could revise and resubmit the paper a few years later.
3. Originally, the purpose of my paper was exploring the possibility of attractive education programs. Of course I intended to develop a program based on the result of this study, but I was thinking it would be done in another study. My paper was already very long, and if I would do an additional study, it should exceed the word limit.
Would you please advise which action would be ideal in this case?
Your concern is understandable. It is natural that you would not want to wait for another 2-3 years to publish your paper. However, the reviewers' suggestion is also valid and it would definitely be interesting to see how far the proposed program can be executed and to what effect. From your question, it is clear that you do wish to execute the study in the future. So one possible solution could be presenting the current study as the first of a two-part study. You can reply to the reviewers' comment saying that you definitely plan to execute the program, but you intend to write another paper in the future which will include the feedback received from the same participants after they have used the program for some time. Explain the situation to the reviewers as clearly as you have done here.
Another option is to change the focus of the study slightly. For example, the study can focus more on the need for the educational program, how you identified the need, and then lead to the survey and the proposed program. Thus, the need for education can be the main focus and the proposed program can be a recommendation. This is just an example, and you can change it in the way you feel would work best. You could also take the advice of your supervisor or a senior colleague about the best way to change the focus. In case the reviewers are still not satisfied and reject your paper, you can submit it to another journal.