After nearly 15 years of publishing in peer-reviewed academic journals I am sure I am not alone in still living in fear of emails containing the “feedback” from editors and reviewers of journals about my papers. Over the years, the inconsistency of reviewers’ comments never ceases to amaze me, while the often unhelpful and sometimes down right rude tone of some reviewers does make me sometimes beg the question …. why do I bother? After a “time out”, however, often a period of two-to-three days, upon revisiting the comments advanced I often, albeit reluctantly, accept that the two or three reviewers have probably made some good comments and that, if I calm down and just adhere to the questions raised, will generate a paper far superior to the one I first submitted. This is not always the case but more often than not reviewers do actually provide very honest, fair and helpful comments in an attempt to improve the quality of submissions. Yes, they can sometimes be pedantic, over-emphasise their own contribution and state the obvious. More often, however, they will provide a critical overview of the broad theme of the paper and its rationale, the methodology and sampling, presentation of findings and conclusions drawn, as well as an overview of the way in which the paper is organised and presented.
My advice to old and new researchers is quite simple. In the first instance, take a deep breath when opening that email, read its contents and then leave for a while and avoid at all costs a hasty and reactive response that will only make things worse. Secondly, accept that editors and reviewers are only human (well, most of them) and that what they are communicating is their views and opinions which most probably do not concur with yours and more often than not will conflict with those of other reviewers. Thirdly, take all the feedback provided and take time in amending your paper and the reply to editors and reviewers that explains exactly what changes have been made in improving the quality of your submission. Where you still disagree be constructive in your explanation and offer further insights that the reviewers may have missed in their interpretation of your work. Finally, resubmit your paper and promise to yourself that you bear no grudges against the editor and/or reviewers as you can normally guarantee that at some point in the future they will once again review your work and remember the professional manner in which you dealt with their feedback the first time. For me, after 15 years of publishing I am still learning, still amazed at some of the comments I receive and am still ……. slightly nervous about opening that email; a fear which is unlikely to vanish perhaps as we continue to learn and learn from others in our respective academic publishing journeys