Navigating peer review: How to respond to comments you disagree with in order to maximise your chances of acceptance
Your peer reviewers are human. Your peer reviewers are academic researcher colleagues. Your peer reviewers might be from a competing research group. It’s sadly the case that most people, when asked to evaluate someone else’s work, start from the perspective of how can I find the issues and the problems with this article’ rather than ‘what’s good about this work?’ or ‘how can I help these authors to get their work published?’. You can train yourself, when performing peer review, to adopt the latter, more positive perspective.
View the process positively
Positive peer review, learning to evaluate the work of others in a constructive manner, is a key transferable skill. Your colleagues and co-workers will appreciate you very much if you are able to do this. [Our peer review training, online materials, and recordings of previous webinars can help. Why not get in touch with Charlesworth Author Services for more information?]
It is important to keep the likely negativity of others in mind when writing your research articles: it’s human nature for peer reviewers to approach their task with a negative mindset. [Charlesworth editing and language polishing services can help you navigate this, however: our Premium Service includes ‘pre-peer review’ where a native English speaking PhD-level specialist working in your research field will edit and evaluate your article to pre-empt the kinds of comments likely to be raised during live peer review. Our service can help you to ‘bullet proof’ your articles before making initial submissions to journals, and thereby increase their chances of eventual acceptance. Find out more about our Premium Service.]
Be courteous when responding
If you get peer review comments back on your work that you disagree with, stay calm. The most important thing is to remain polite and constructive in your responses, even if a peer reviewer has been outright rude (it happens) or is simply incorrect in their assertions or conclusions about your work (it happens). It’s also highly likely that your editor has noticed these negative comments as well as the tone of the reviewer and is now waiting to see how you will respond. If you respond aggressively to the editor, you will decrease your chances of acceptance: take negative comments on the chin and learn to compose clear, unambiguous, strong, and polite responses. For example: ‘I’d like to thank Reviewer 1 for their comments on my work but I disagree for the following reasons’ and then list them, putting your strongest arguments in first place.
Pause before responding
Editors are not expecting you to fully agree with all the comments made about your work during peer review, but you must have coherent and strong arguments if you defer. There is nothing to worry about if your arguments are convincing and, hey, if they are not then perhaps the reviewer has a point after all. This is why it’s always important to take a step back, take a deep breath, and be calm when responding to peer review comments: one good tip is to wait for a few days after receiving comments on your work before starting to compose your responses. Let the dust settle.
Read previous (fourth) in series: Navigating peer review: How to respond to peer reviewer comments – Major revisions
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