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“This issue was not raised by the other reviewers, so we prefer not to address it.”

July 25, 2011 Filed under Blog, Featured, Reviewing 

As a reviewer and an editor, I occasionally see an author respond to a reviewer comment with the above response: “This issue was not raised by the other reviewers, so we prefer not to address it.”

This response has always bothered me, but I didn’t know why. After thinking about it recently, now I know why.

This comment is wrong for two reasons. The first is a practical one, the second represents a misunderstanding of how the peer-review process works.

First is the practical issue. Simply, the author has not addressed the reviewer’s comment. By pitting one reviewer against the others rather than providing a sensible response to the reviewer, the author has not provided what is usually requested from the editor: a response to all the reviewers’ concerns. As an editor, I want to hear what the author thinks of all of the reviewers’ comments. I don’t want to hear that because the other two reviewers didn’t raise that issue means that it is irrelevant.

Which leads to me to the second issue: a misunderstanding of the peer-review process. Peer review is not a democracy! Not all reviewers are created equal, whether it be by expertise, experience, or even quality. Thus, I don’t expect the comments provided by one reviewer to overlap the comments provided by another reviewer. (If the comments did overlap all the time, then I wouldn’t need a second reviewer!) For example, Reviewer A might be an expert in statistics, and Reviewers B and C might be experts in synoptic meteorology. If Reviewer A raised an issue about how the statistics were calculated in the manuscript, I wouldn’t necessarily expect Reviewers B and C to pick up on exactly the same point. Yet, that doesn’t mean that the author is absolved from addressing the issue. The editor makes decisions, and I want to ensure that the author has addressed all the reviewer concerns.

There is the issue of what happens if, for example, Reviewers A and B explicitly say that they like section 5 of the manuscript and Reviewer C wants to see it eliminated. In that case, I think an author has more to stand on in siding with the majority, although I still would hope to see a spirited rebuttal of why the section should remain (not just “Reviewers A and B both like this section”) and perhaps some efforts to improve the section to address Reviewer C’s concerns.

What do you think? Do you think it is an acceptable excuse for not addressing reviewers’ comments?

Do you think it is an acceptable excuse for not addressing reviewers' comments?

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