Why authors should not be deterred by a "revise and resubmit" decision: A case study
Case: An author, who was one of our clients, received reviewers’ comments requesting major revision. On assessing the number of comments/queries from the reviewers (>80), the complexity of most of the queries, and the extent of revision required, the author decided not to revise and resubmit to the same journal, which was one of the most prestigious journals in the field. Instead, he decided to submit the unrevised version to a journal with much lower impact factor.
When we inquired the reason for this decision, he said that formatting the manuscript for a new journal will take lesser time than revising and resubmitting to the same journal. Also, a lower impact journal may have a higher acceptance rate and could accept the manuscript in its original form.
Action: Though we respected the author’s decision, we decided to list some reasons in favor of revising the manuscript and resubmitting to the same journal. Following are the points that we wanted to bring to the author’s notice:
1. Submission to a new journal would mean another round of peer review, which could be more time consuming.
2. Even if the manuscript is submitted to a new journal, it might be sent to the same peer reviewers as the previous submission and receive the same critical comments.
3. A decision of ‘major revision before resubmission’ means that the reviewers and the editor saw some potential in the study and it can be brought up to the standard of the journal by some revision.
The author agreed to revise the manuscript but he confessed that he was not able to understand the reviewers’ comments fully and did not know how to start revising the manuscript. We helped the author to group the reviewers’ comments into smaller categories, e.g., concerns over methodology, issues with the presentation of results, missing citation of relevant literature, revisions requires in figures/tables, etc.
Once we categorized the 80-plus reviewer comments into smaller groups, the author figured out that he had only 6 major issues that needed to be addressed. He was able to revise the manuscript within the stipulated time. Further, we helped him polish the language of the revised manuscript and the responses to reviewers’ comments. Ultimately, the peer reviewers were satisfied with the revised manuscript and accepted it for publication.
Summary: Receiving major critical comments from peer reviewers can be disheartening and responding to reviewer comments a big challenge. Often authors get so overwhelmed by the length and complexity of the comments that they fail to do an in-depth analysis of the comments and gauge whether the changes are doable or not. Understandably, it is difficult to make major amendments to the study question or repeat an experiment at a stage when the study has been wrapped up and the manuscript is ready for submission.
However, it is often possible to address reviewers’ suggestions by minor rewriting, adding some preliminary data, removing data that does not fit well or redoing the statistical analysis. Peer reviewers’ comments are the first step towards acceptance and authors should take these comments very seriously as they will definitely improve the presentation of their research.
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