Researcher Vs Reviewer – how to handle negative comments

I’m sure many of us are familiar with the review process that goes into getting our research published in the wider community, and for many it is an arduous and irritating ordeal. This article on the Nature website helpfully gathers together advice from various authors on the dos and don’ts of responding to reviewers.

Many researchers, particularly those early in their careers, are quick to send a defensive, fiery response back to their reviewer, unable to handle criticism of the work they’ve carried out so painstakingly. This, we’re advised, is not a good idea. Battling your reviewers will not end well, even if they are indeed being particularly critical, or are misunderstanding your work.

It is suggested by Andrew Hendry, of McGill University, that authors simply get on with carrying out referees’ suggestions, as it can often be quicker and easier than a painful second round of reviews.

Plus, of course, in our small world of academia there is a very good chance you’ll come across this reviewer in the future, and it is never advantageous to get on the wrong side of someone who can put up barriers against you in the future.

The majority of graduates receive little to no advice on the review process, and it’s suggested that some sort of formal training would be beneficial for the researcher, the reviewers and the editors of the publications you are submitting to. It would seem that the entire publishing process is often slowed down by mishandling of referees, and proper instruction and formalisation of all parts would be good for everyone concerned.

In the cut-throat world of academia, it can often come down to a battle of egos, and in most cases backing down and working with the reviewer will be most profitable for you in the end.

Have you had any experiences of particularly difficult referees?