'Anonymous' peer reviewer just emailed me about my article...

posted
26-Feb-19, 14:19
edited about 16 seconds later
Avatar for Nesrine87
posted about 7 months ago
So this is weird.

I submitted an article (humanities) to a good journal at the end of December. A couple of weeks ago, I received an email saying that after two reviewers had read the work, the article would be accepted as long as I made some changes. Okay, that's fine, I thought. I'm really busy with other stuff so I skim-read their comments and saw that I needed to make some proper changes (not just spelling mistakes) but I thought 'no problem, I'll get to it later'.

Today, I get an email from one of the reviewers (!) who guessed I was the author due to the (very niche) subject matter. We've been in touch several times over the years and he's been very supportive of my career (he's retired) so he's not a stranger. He says that by now I should've received the journal's response BUT that 'he was very sorry to recommend that the article be rejected'...which it wasn't, but okay. And the journal must have omitted that recommendation because I didn't come across any comments like that.

He sent me extra comments and resources for me to look at and was very encouraging, saying that the article will be great once it's finished. I know he meant well but I feel kinda crap now knowing that he wanted to reject it! I guess, at the end of the day, my article wasn't technically rejected and I suppose if his suggestions improve my work, then that's good for me.

Anyway, I just needed to get this off my chest. I'm probably over-reacting because I have a lot of other stressful things going on.
posted
26-Feb-19, 18:21
by rewt
Avatar for rewt
posted about 7 months ago
Retired professors can be a bit 'eccentric'. I wouldn't take it personally as it sounds like he means well. You have met him before and he must like you to reply. It might be he just wants to help as best he can to meet his high standards. Being rejected is gut wrenching but this guy is actually giving you significant feedback which is amazing.
posted
27-Feb-19, 09:14
edited about 27 seconds later
Avatar for Nesrine87
posted about 7 months ago
Quote From rewt:
Retired professors can be a bit 'eccentric'. I wouldn't take it personally as it sounds like he means well. You have met him before and he must like you to reply. It might be he just wants to help as best he can to meet his high standards. Being rejected is gut wrenching but this guy is actually giving you significant feedback which is amazing.


Yes, you are right. I'm trying not to take it personally (but it's hard!). I think the confusion over the article actually *not* being rejected and then receiving this email was what I found a bit stressful. He also said something about my 'reputation being potentially damaged' if I published the article as is! I found that quite harsh, especially as I wasn't intending to publish the article in its current form following the feedback.
posted
27-Feb-19, 10:40
edited about 5 seconds later
by eng77
Avatar for eng77
posted about 7 months ago
I would recommend that you reply thanking him briefly for his feedback. Then follow the "official" recommendations from the journal reviewers and look at his personal recommendation if they are different from what he wrote offcially and try as much as possible to follow them. It is not nice I know but this is life. Not everyone knows how to express his opinion nicely.
posted
27-Feb-19, 10:46
edited about 4 seconds later
Avatar for Nesrine87
posted about 7 months ago
I actually responded just before I read your post. I did what you recommended, so that's lucky :) I said I appreciated the extra feedback and that I would try my best to improve the article.

It's quite confusing when one reviewer is happy and recommends only minor changes and the other completely rips it apart and says that I need to completely change the angle of my argument.
posted
27-Feb-19, 11:59
edited about 27 seconds later
by eng77
Avatar for eng77
posted about 7 months ago
Quote From Nesrine87:

It's quite confusing when one reviewer is happy and recommends only minor changes and the other completely rips it apart and says that I need to completely change the angle of my argument.


Reviewers differ from each other. After reviewing many articles, I have "discovered" that I am of the kind of "soft reviewers". But I do not have intention to change this. On the other hand, I had colleagues who were really hard reviewers and tend not to like or appreciate any work submitted.
posted
27-Feb-19, 12:43
edited about 35 minutes later
Avatar for Mackem_Beefy
posted about 7 months ago
Reviewers shouldn't contact the author directly, but I was relaxed about this given one of my regular reviewers ended up being my external examiner.

It seems he's recommended rejection, but perhaps the editor has called upon a third reviewer who has recommneded acceptance after major changes (i.e. two accept with changes, one reject).

But he's been positive and told you what's needed, so all's well that ends well.


Ian
posted
02-Mar-19, 15:53
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 6 months ago
The differing view of the reviewers is totally normally (everybody has this wretched "third reviewer" who seems to be reading a different paper altogether and tears it to shreds).

Him getting in touch isn't normal, but not that big a deal (a bit like in my continuation viva how one of the examiners said, "oh, I've been sent your paper to review" - ok... it's supposed to be anonymous but clearly isn't at times).

The editor choosing to ignore and omit his review and recommend that it be published is interesting! I knew their role was to make the final decision, but I didn't know that they actually removed a set of comments if they saw fit! How interesting! I wonder how frequent a thing this is! I suspect that he/she thinks that that reviewer was overly harsh/critical or perhaps as someone else suggested just thinks he is eccentric and his comments way out of line with everyone else' - and so just decided to disregard their review. It sounds as though they maybe often review things in that way if that was the response - so maybe it was an eye roll exercise for the editor! Good if you actually found the feedback in his email useful.
posted
03-Mar-19, 12:12
Avatar for Nesrine87
posted about 6 months ago
The editor choosing to ignore and omit his review and recommend that it be published is interesting! I knew their role was to make the final decision, but I didn't know that they actually removed a set of comments if they saw fit! How interesting! I wonder how frequent a thing this is! I suspect that he/she thinks that that reviewer was overly harsh/critical or perhaps as someone else suggested just thinks he is eccentric and his comments way out of line with everyone else' - and so just decided to disregard their review. It sounds as though they maybe often review things in that way if that was the response - so maybe it was an eye roll exercise for the editor! Good if you actually found the feedback in his email useful.


This is an interesting point. I wondered whether the editor found the reviewer's criticism too harsh. I haven't yet had time to trawl through all of their comments. I think the thing that stung the most was their comment about the paper possibly 'damaging my reputation'. I keep repeating that in my head which is definitely not healthy! I also wondered whether to send my paper to a third person to see what they thought but it's so hard finding anyone who has the time and expertise. I think I'll just need to sit down and have a long think about the paper and what direction to take it in.
posted
03-Mar-19, 14:00
edited about 17 seconds later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 6 months ago
Quite strong words - no wonder you feel a bit uncertain / stung. But - bear in mind three people have peer reviewed your paper (assuming two other reviewers plus editor). Were their reviews quite rigorous (even though they don't tear it to shreds like the omitted one)?

Just to help put it in perspective - if he hadn't emailed you, you wouldn't have had any idea about that opinion on your paper. But if it helps and you have someone you trust - why not drop them an email and see if they can read through it for you and give their thoughts? You could mention the key issues that the harsh reviewer had and get their take on it.

Hope this helps.

Tudor
posted
04-Mar-19, 17:01
Avatar for Nesrine87
posted about 6 months ago
Hi Tudor_Queen, thanks for your comment! The other reviewer wasn't as thorough but they certainly made some useful comments.

if he hadn't emailed you, you wouldn't have had any idea about that opinion on your paper
Yes, I agree which I think is why I had my initial negative reaction to the email. It seemed unnecessarily harsh, albeit well-intentioned on some level.

I'll think about sending it on to someone else. Everyone is so busy though that I feel very guilty imposing on anyone's time.
posted
04-Mar-19, 20:23
edited about 15 minutes later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 6 months ago
Hi Nesrine! What are your thoughts about his main comments? Do you think they have good grounding? I think I'd be feeling inclined to just forget about it and publish the paper really.

I don't know if this helps but I submitted a paper to a good journal a few years ago and it was rejected. It had two really good sets of comments (not that constructive but good - and they sounded like they would recommend small changes and then it could be published) but the third reviewer ripped it utterly to shreds! And the editor rejected it (I think on the basis of the third reviewer's comments).

There's two things about that. One - in your case the editor saw that reviewer's feedback and still decided that your paper was worthy of publication. Two - in my case my supervisors promptly told me to submit my paper for publication in a different journal. They weren't at all concerned by the extremely critical comments of the third reviewer - they told me to ignore all but a few of them! Personally, I welcomed the feedback - even though it was really harsh. I just stored it for future work.

Hope that helps! :)
posted
05-Mar-19, 08:51
edited a moment later
Avatar for Nesrine87
posted about 6 months ago
I haven't had time to read the comments in-depth because they're pretty extensive and I've been really busy. I had a skim-read and a few things struck me as being incorrect or things that I had mentioned in the article but he'd missed. Other things seem more legitimate but I need a bit more time to think about them properly. I was a bit upset by his comment that one (major) section was 'really weak' because that section is essentially my expertise so I can't imagine how 'weak' it really could be?? I've published a prize-winning paper on this subject so I was really shocked by that! To be honest, reading the comments in detail will upset me so I'm putting it off until I have time to process it properly.

Thank you for sharing your experience about your paper though. That's very helpful and interesting. I hope you were able to eventually publish it! I'm glad your supervisors sound supportive of your work too.
posted
05-Mar-19, 16:54
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 6 months ago
He may be bitter or having a bad day! Good luck with everything!

Postgraduate
Forum

Copyright ©2018
All rights reserved

Postgraduate Forum

Masters Degrees

PhD Opportunities

PostgraduateForum is a trading name of FindAUniversity Ltd
FindAUniversity Ltd, 77 Sidney St, Sheffield, S1 4RG, UK. Tel +44 (0) 114 268 4940 Fax: +44 (0) 114 268 5766