It’s been a real learning experience being an associate editor for Middling Journal. I’ve learned to really rely on reviewers actually doing reviews that say something rather than just making banal and meaningless comments. If they do this, it also makes my life much easier because I just don’t have time to read all of the manuscripts from end to end. More to the point, I don’t understand any some of them.
But I’ve also discovered how difficult it can be to find people who will agree to review the manuscripts. And then getting them to actually submit a review can be even harder. Apparently I’m not allowed to threaten them with physical violence. Who knew?
And this experience has taught me a lot about being an author and about trying to publish my stuff. Like submitting a list of potential reviewers who aren’t my current collaborators, aren’t all from my current or former institutions and who actually have a clue about the topic covered in the manuscript. Oh, and about how to respond to reviews and/or rejections.
So, a couple of tips for dealing with journals and stuff ...
1. Don’t argue with the umpire
Editors and associate editors don’t like being told that they got it wrong when they rejected your manuscript. And if they are a good umpire, they won't change their mind. I certainly won't, regardless of how much you complain. Suck it up, revise the sucker and find another journal.
2. Don’t throw a tantrum
Sure, you can write to the editorial team complaining about the reviewers and blaming their ineptitude for your manuscript rejection. Just remember that the identities of the reviewers of your manuscripts are unknown to you. Don't use words like imbecile and ignorant. You may have suggested the reviewer(s). They may actually be a BigWig in the area. And they might know far, far more about your corner of science than you think you do.
3. Copy and paste
You know how to do that, right? Remember to copy the reviewers' comments verbatim when doing your revise and resubmit (assuming you were invited to do so). You want them and the editor to remember what the issues were with the original submission. Having to flick back and forth between screens and matching criticisms to rebuttals is only going to make everyone angry. And there's nothing worse than an angry editor and/or reviewer. Well, except for a crazy assistant professor who is ill but still frantically searching for her next bag of Doritos. But that's a whole other story.
4. Play by the rules
Come on. You’ve been at this game long enough to know that submitting the following response to the previous reviewers’ comments really isn’t a good idea: “(1) No. (2) We strongly disagree. (3) There is nothing wrong with the figure.” Reviewers like to have their egos stroked. Tell them how wise they are. Even if the next sentence is to show them how totally wrong they are. Do it nicely and back it up with evidence.
5. Tell your story and tell it well
Insisting that the reviewers completely misunderstood the main crux of your paper means that you didn’t write it very well in the first place. Did you understand that? Do I need to say it again in a different way? Your. Writing. Sucks.
Sigh. This part of the game really isn’t rocket science. I’m sure that several editors shook their fists at their computer screens when reading some of my stuff in the past. And probably continue to do it. I just don’t bother anymore. It’s much quicker and much more energy efficient to just hit the REJECT button. I have Teh Power.