How to answer reviewers for a journal paper revision?

Today, I will discuss how to prepare the revision of a journal paper after receiving the editor’s decision that the paper will be accepted with minor or major modifications.

reviewer

As most people should know, when submitting a paper to a journal, the decision is usually “accept”, “accept with minor modifications”, “accept with major modifications”, “reject” or “resubmit as new”.  In the second and third cases, the author has to revise his paper according to the reviewers comments and to write a file generally called “summary of changes” to explain how the author has addressed the reviewers’ comments.

So let’s look at how to write a file “Summary of changes” to answer reviewers:

  • You should first say thank you to the reviewers for the useful comments that they have made to improve the paper.
  • Then, in the same file, you should explain how you have answered each reviewer comment that requires to do something.
  • To do that, I suggest to organize your document as follows. Create a section for each reviewer. Then, in each section copy the comments made by the reviewer and cite it as a quote (“…”). Then explain below the quote how you have addressed the comment.  For example, your document could look like this.

  SUMMARY OF CHANGES

        First, we would like to say thank you to the reviewers for the useful comments to improve the paper. We have addressed all the comments as explained below.

        REVIEWER 1

                     “Section 3 is too long”

               We have addressed this comment by deleting a few lines at the end of the second paragraph that were not necessary for understanding the algorithm.

         REVIEWER 2

                Reviewer 2 has reported several typos and grammatical errors.  We have fixed all of them and proofread the paper to eliminate all such errors.

  • But how to answer a reviewer’s comment?
  • First, if you agree with the reviewer, you should do exactly what the reviewer ask you to do, and mention that you have done it.  Then the reviewer should be happy. Second, you can disagree with the reviewer and explain why you disagree.  In this case, you only need to explain why you disagree. But you need to explain well why.  Third, it is possible that the reviewer has made a comment that is inaccurate or that you have already addressed in your paper (but the reviewer did not saw it). In this case, you also need to explain that.  So overall, it is important to answer all comments.
  • From my experience, usually 2 or 3 reviewers are assigned to review each journal papers.  In top journals, the reviewers may be expert on your topic.  In journals that are not top journals, reviewers may not be very familiar with your topic but may still be good researchers.
  • Usually, if your paper receive the decision “accept with minor modifications”, there is a high chance that your paper will be accepted if you address the comments well.  If the decision is “accept with major modifications”, there is a risk that your paper may not be accepted if you don’t address the comments well, so you may need to work harder to convince the reviewers.
  • Usually, there is one, two or three rounds of reviews.  Generally, after the first revision, most comments have been addressed. Therefore, the job become easier after the first revision.  Usually, the editor wants that the reviews converge to a decision after about two round of reviews (the editor will likely intervene if reviewers always ask for more things to do).

So these are the advices that I wanted to write for today. Hope that you have enjoyed this post.  If you like this blog, you can tweet about it and/or subscribe to my twitter account @philfv to get notified about new posts.

Philippe Fournier-Viger is a professor of Computer Science and also the founder of the open-source data mining software SPMF, offering more than 52 data mining algorithms.

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45 Responses to How to answer reviewers for a journal paper revision?

  1. Dang Nguyen says:

    Dear Prof. Philippe,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences and suggestions to deal with reviewers’ comments. This entry is very helpful for me since this is the first time I have opportunity to respond to the reviewers. However, I have a concern as follows: should we need to complete point-to-point responses? For example, the reviewer #1 mentions Section 2 is very lengthy but the review #2 doesn’t say anything about this section. It means that I still should delete some unnecessary sentences to satisfy the review #1. There is any risk that the reviewer #2 doesn’t feel happy when reading again?

    Thanks and regards,
    Dang Nguyen

    • Hello Dang,

      This is a good point. I would not worry too much about it though because if Reviewer #2 become unhappy, then you have a good reason to do what you did which is that Reviewer #1 asked you to do it. Then, in the next round of reviews, you could answer Reviewer #2 by stating that it is Reviewer #1 who asked you to do it and then you don’t want to undo what Reviewer #1 asked you to do. Normally, it should be ok.

      Another similar situation is that two reviewers may ask you to do two different things that contradict each other. For example, Reviewer 1 say that you should add more content in the introduction. But Reviewer 2 say that the introduction is too long. In this case, you would need to take a decision and then justify why you choose to do like Reviewer #1 or Reviewer #2 and to explain that you cannot satisfy both of them.

      Another case is that Reviewer 1 ask you to do something. Then you do it. Then he ask you to undo what you did. This has happened to me for an article. The reviewer say ” you should talk about this”. Then in the next version, he say “you should not talk about this”. In this case, what I did is to explain that Reviewer 1 ask me to do contradictory things and so I will not undo what I did, and it was OK. Actually, Reviewer 1 did not do that purposely. He probably just forgot that he had add something else before…

      Best,

      Philippe

      • Dang Nguyen says:

        Dear Prof. Philippe,

        Thanks for your detailed answers. I didn’t think that the process to respond to reviewers is too complicated like that. Luckily, two reviewers don’t ask me to do contrary things like you mentioned. One reviewer requests me to verify the performance of my proposed method on some special datasets. However, I already stated that task be one of my future works. So, do you think I should do that experiment now to make the reviewer happy or I explain him that point is my future work?

        Today, I’ve been notified my another paper was accepted for revision in a different Elsevier journal (SCIE, IF > 1.6). I hope I can prepare my two revised manuscripts in time.

        Best,
        Dang Nguyen

        • Hi,

          1) If the reviewer ask you to do it, maybe he want you to do it in this paper rather than in future works. If it does not take too much time to do it or too much space in your paper (if there is a page limitation), then I would suggest to do it. Alternatively, you could say that you don’t want to do it and keep it for future work. It this case you would should highlight the reason why you keep it for future work and it could be OK. But the more things that you do, the more the reviewer will be happy. So there a choice to make.

          Great, congratulations. By the way, for revising a paper, there is usually a deadline. However, if you need more time, you can always ask extra time by contacting the editor. Usually the editor can give you a few more weeks.

          Philippe

  2. Paul says:

    I have been looking for this information for a while. Thanks

  3. Mohammed says:

    Dear Prof. Philippe,
    Thank you so much for this nice suggestions, it really helps me.
    I have another problem with reviewing, the reviewer ask me to do a simulation on my proposed scheme changing one parameter to be random while I write in the paper that the parameter if fixed. Actually, when I check my simulation I found that the parameter is already set to be random but I make a mistake while writing the paper. What should I do in this case?
    regards

    • In this case, I would tell the truth to the reviewers (you made a mistake and the parameter is actually random), and you should modify the text to say that the parameter is random. In my opinion, if you do like that, the reviewers will understand and it will be ok.

      Best regards,

  4. Prabhu Vijayakumaran says:

    Dear Sir,
    I recently received a comment from a reviewer saying that my paper is not fit for publishing as the work has been done before. But it is actually a misunderstanding. How do I convey to him that it is just a misunderstanding.

    • If the paper is rejected, you may try to contact the associate editor that has handled your article to explain what happened. Then the associate editor would probably ask another reviewer to review your paper. Or another way is to submit the paper again as a new article but to make clear either in the cover letter or in the paper that your paper is not a copy of previous work. Also if you submit again, you should still send an e-mail to the editor to explain your problem and make sure that your paper will be reviewed properly this time.

  5. Aryan Sarmadi says:

    Dear Prof. Philippe
    Please accept my sincere thanks for your comprehensive details and information. Recently, my manuscript took a major revision in a very high-quality journal in Elsevier. In this manuscript, a novel mathematical method and an improved formulation were proposed to address a significant issue in vibration. The manuscript was reviewed by two reviewers so that Reviewer #1 rejected my manuscript because he/she believed that my study has not a good novelty for publication in that journal!!!
    However, Reviewer #2 accepted the manuscript and gave a major revision. Now I have a few questions about this event.
    Is it necessary to reply to comments of Reviewer #1?
    What is your prediction about the risk of acceptation/rejection of my manuscript in such circumstances?
    How can I reply to reviewers’ comment?
    It is important to mention that the manuscript was “Under Editor Evaluation” after the review process.
    With warm regards

    • Hi,
      Thanks for reading and commenting on the blog. It is a good news that they ask you to revise your manuscript, although they ask for a major revision.

      In general, it is required to consider all the comments by all the reviewers and modify your manuscript according to these comments and provide some answers to these comments. If the reviewers ask you to modify something, then you should modify it and explain what you have done. Or if they ask for something and you really cannot do it, you need to provide a good explanation about why you cannot do it or don’t want to do it.

      For the reviewer 1, if he asked you to modify something, then you should do it or answer it. But if the reviewer 1 just complain that your work is not enough novel, then you do not really need to answer this comment. But it may be helpful to briefly explain why your work is novel. Also, you may want to modify the introduction of your paper to better highlight the contribution of your paper and why it is important. Perhaps that the reason why the reviewer 1 think that your work is not novel is that your introduction is not convincing enough. If that is the case, you may want to improve your introduction and explain to the reviewer that you have modified the manuscript to better highlight the contribution of the manuscript. And you may also want to cite some additional papers that show that your research problem is important.

      About “Under Editor Evaluation”, you should not mention this. It is a normal step of the review process. After the reviewers have submitted their reviews to the editor, the editor will check the reviews and make the decision about whether to accept the paper, accept it with revision, or reject it. It is the editor who take this decision. This is what is called “under editor evaluation”. This is just the normal review process so don’t mention it.

      My prediction? It depends how well you address the reviewer comments. If you address all the comments made by all the reviewers very well, then, you have a high chance of being accepted. But if you do not address the comments made by the reviewer well, it is still possible that the paper may be rejected or that there will be another round of reviews, and then you will need to modify the paper again, and after that there could still be another round of reviews. It is quite normal that there are a few rounds of reviews for a journal paper.

      Actually, the editor has asked two reviewers to read your paper. But in the next round of reviews, it is always possible that some of these reviewers are not available or do not want to read your manuscript again. In these cases, the editor may want to ask the opinion of some other reviewers that are not reviewer 1 and 2. So it is possible that in the next round of reviews, some new reviewer will read your paper and may raise some additional issues that were not raised by reviewer 1 and 2.

      So there are still some uncertainty and it cannot be guaranteed that your paper will be accepted at this stage of the review process. But no matter what happen, what you need to do is to make sure that you address all the issues raised by the reviewers well. You should do your best to convince them to accept your paper. That is all you can do.

      Hope this helps,

  6. Adam says:

    Dear Philippe,

    What is the chance for accepting revise for rereview manuscript!!
    Recently I have got the above decision for one of my publication, which has been submitted to one of the ASCE journals . In general, one reviewer is positive and he required a minor revision and the second one is cautiously positive. I have tried my best to addressed all raised issues by them and response to all comments. according to experience who decide the final decision associate editor or editor! and usually, they go with the positive reviewer or negative one!!

    King regards,
    Adam

    • Dear Adam,

      Thanks for reading and commenting the blog. What may happen next is the following:
      – The two reviewers are happy with your modifications, and they will recommend to accept the paper. The decision will be “accept”.
      – One or both of the reviewers still have some issues with the paper. In this case they will ask for another revision. The decision will be “minor revision” or “major revision”.
      – The decision may be reject. This would be quite rare. But it can happens. A reason why a paper can still be rejected after the first round of review is that it is still possible that the associate editor or editor will ask for a new reviewer to read your paper to have a different perspective or for some other reasons. If this happens and that new reviewer does not like your paper, that reviewer could recommend that your paper is rejected, and then it could happen. Another reason why the associate editor or editor may ask for a new reviewer is that one of the original reviewer of your paper may not be available to read your paper again. In this case, the editor may have to ask someone else to read it. There might also be some other unexpected events that may happen.

      Now, I cannot really tell you what is more likely. It really depends on how well you have addressed the comments of the reviewers. It also depends on how good and competitive the journal is. But in general, if you have passed the first round of review, it is likely that the paper will not be rejected. In my opinion, it will be either accepted or there will be another round of review. Depending on the journal, it is possible that there can be several rounds of review. Generally, I see 1 or 2 rounds. But I have ever seen 4 rounds of review in some specific cases. It is quite rare that papers are rejected after the first round. I have seen it at least twice. But it is not very common. Of course, it may be different for different fields (I am in computer science).

      But actually, you are in a very good situation by having one reviewer that asked for a minor revision. This is one of the best situation. If you had two reviewers that do not really like your paper, it would be harder to convince them. But now, since you have a reviewer that already like your paper, it will put more pressure on the second reviewer if there is another round of review. For example, if there is another round and the first reviewer say accept, the second reviewer will have more pressure to also accept your paper.

      In general, the review process should always “converge”. If there are several rounds of review, the reviewers should not ask you to do new modifications after each round. They should rather ask you to fix the remaining issues. And after each round, there will be less issues, and in the end the paper will be accepted. This is the normal process.

      About the role of the associate editor and editor, it depends. Normally, it would be the editor who would have the final word on whether a paper is accepted based on a recommendation from the associate editor. But not all journal may follow this model.

      • Adam says:

        Dear Philippe,

        Many thanks for quick response and providing all of these detail. Now I have better sight about the reviewing process. Actually, my field of work is water resources engineering and we submit our manuscript to the journal of water resources planning and management. Hope they accept it this time.
        A nother request and will appreciate if you can answer it!
        I am reviewing a manuscript and I had rejected the first version of the manuscript as the authors obtained results based on inaccurate methodology has many drawbacks and often leads to wrong results. Now they send the revised manuscript and they have tried to address my comments and issues raised by me by providing a number of papers that have published by one of the co-authors on the relevant area. However, from my personal experience on this methodology,I know it works only under very specific boundary conditions and simple networks. The problem the author shine the provided methodology and believe that work very well and could be applied to any network (which is not true) , and they didn’t mention any drawbacks and limitations of it anywhere in the manuscript. I don’t know how to response to the revision version!!
        Any suggestion and advice from you!

        Regards,
        Adam

        • Dear Adam,

          1) Glad my previous message was helpful. Wish you get some good news about the manuscript soon.

          2) I have edited your message to fix your name 😉

          3)
          That is a kind of tricky situation. Despite the suggestion of rejecting the paper, the editor has decided to give the authors the opportunity to revise their paper. Often, if one of the reviewer suggests to reject the paper, the paper will be rejected by the editor. But perhaps that in this case, the other reviewer(s) have given some good evaluation, so the editor may have decided to give a chance to the authors. Or it may also be because the editor is willing to accept many papers in the journal, and saw that on overall the comments seem not too hard to address. Or there could be other reasons.

          Now what to do in this situation? As a reviewer, you have the right to say that you are not satisfied with how the authors have addressed your comment. So you could either (1) reject the paper again, and explain in more details why the authors have not addressed your comment and they will not be able to address them (there is a fundamental flaw in their paper, so you need to reject it),
          or (2) you could suggest some modifications that would be acceptable to address your comments.

          Now, when you enter your review, you can usually also leave a confidential message to the editor to explain the situation. It might be a good idea to do this if you still think that the paper should be rejected because the author will not be able to fix the issue. But even if you suggest to reject the paper again, the editor may still decide to not listen to you for whatever reason. I have seen this happen before. In one case, there was a reviewer on one of my papers who continuously claim that my paper should be rejected but the editor continued to ask me to revise the paper until it was accepted despite that one of the reviewer was still not satisfied. It does not happen often. But it can happen. In my case, it was not a fundamental issue though.

          By the way, as a reviewer, we sometimes believe that some methods should not work well or should not be researched for some reasons, for example because most people think that a given method is worse than another method commonly used in the literature. But sometimes it is good also to let some papers be published on other methods that do not exactly follow the mainstream idea of what method should work. But if the method has some fundamental issues and it should not be used to draw incorrect conclusion, then it make sense to reject it. As I am not an expert in your domain, I cannot say what is good or bad. But I just want to say that you may consider whether there is something good in that paper that should still be published? And is there a way to fix it? Maybe that a solution is to ask the author to recognize some limitations of their work and in the worst case mention in the conclusion that they could be addressed in future work? Either way, I think that either rejecting the paper again or suggesting some modifications would be an OK decision. You need to think about which one make the most sense for that paper.

          Best regards,

          Philippe

  7. RISHI RANA says:

    Dear Philippe,

    Firstly, I would like to thank you for this post as it has helped me immensely in writing response to the reviewer’s.
    I have a query too, I submitted a paper and now when got the comments back, one of the reviewer has asked to give some string diagrams for GC-MSMS analysis, but unfortunately I am not able to provide them, How should i put this forward to the reviewer?

    Please help.

    Kind Regards,
    Rishi

    • Hi,
      Glad that the blog post is helpful. In the case where you cannot provide the diagram, try to find a good reason to explain why you cannot provide these diagrams. Actually, you need to convince the reviewer that it is OK if you do not provide the diagram. I’m not familiar with GS-MSMS, but in general, here are some things that you could use to answer:
      1) You could say the truth and explain the reason why you cannot provide the diagrams. For example: We did not keep the data because the research was made a few years ago during my Ph.D. and obtaining the data again would require to run all the experiments again (which would take many weeks and would be very expensive). If you can give a reason like that or something else that the reviewer will view as reasonable, then, it can be ok.
      2) You could argue that most people in your field do not provide this type of diagram, and cite some papers in top journals as example that do not provide these diagrams or that say that these diagrams are not reliable or not very important. But this is risky. Maybe that the reviewer will still disagree.
      3) You could provide something else instead of the diagrams as a compromise. For example, you explain that you cannot provide the diagram for X reason but you provide another kind of diagrams or information that would replace these diagrams and give more insight in your research. Not sure that it would work. It really depends on how much you can convince the reviewer.
      4) When a reviewer ask to do something, another way is to mention it in your paper as a limitation of your experiment, and then mention that you could do it in future work. This is a good idea.

      So this is my opinion. In a similar situation, I would probably do 1) and 4). But it depends on the context. Personally, I have done 1) and 4) several times. For example, during my Ph.D. I was doing some experimental evaluation with users and I submitted the journal paper about that study more than two years after my Ph.D. Due to the agreement that I had with the human participants of my experiment, I had to destroy the data after two years (for privacy issues). Thus, I was unable to provide some additional details that the reviewer requested. I explained this in my answer to the reviewer, and it was enough to convince the reviewer.

  8. asmaa says:

    Prof. Philippe,
    I would like to sharing your experiences and suggestions to deal with reviewers’ comments. I received a major revisions for my manuscript with reviewers’ comments.
    The reviewer 1# said: The part of abstract is not readable and lacks the conclusion and research significance. MATERIALS & METHODS is writing very simple, poor, while logic is not strong, readability is not good. At the same time adding a little detail to MATERIALS & METHODS. Although, I wrote all methods in all experiments such as any paper according to authors and year. For example, Photosynthetic pigments in fresh leaves were determined according to (Lichtenthaler and Buschmann, 2001).
    What I can do? What detail…?
    Finally he said the parameter should be discussed together, all the data in the table are lack of standard deviation.
    Although, the statistical analysis of variance at the least significant difference (L.S.D.) between means were calculated at 0.05 level of probability in all tables.
    What can I do?
    He wanted to change all paper….
    In contrast, the reviewer 2# did not mention the above or any comment about abstract, material and method.
    But, comment about there is some misspelling in manuscript and asked me about the reason of some different in some data and how to explained it? These comments have made to improve the paper.
    What can I do? To reply with compatibility between two comments.
    Can you help me? I hope I can prepare my manuscripts in less time. I hope my paper “accept” in a journal.
    Thanks and regards,

    • Hello,
      I think that the comments could be worse. I can say a few things about this:
      – First, it is normal that two reviewers may have different opinion. A reviewer can ask you to do something, and another reviewer can ask to do something else. This happens all the time because not all reviewers have the same background, and so different reviewers will pay attention to different things in your paper. Also some reviewer may read your paper very quickly while another reviwer may look at the details. In that case, you need to try to do what they ask you. The only problem is if two reviewers ask you to do something that is the opposite of each other (for example, a reviewer ask you to make the introduction shorter but the other ask you to make it longer). In that case, you need to find a compromise as it is impossible to satisfy both reviewer. But in general, you need to try to address all the comments made by the reviewers.
      – In your case, I think that Reviewer 2 probably recommended to accept your paper with a minor revision while Reviewer 1 may be the one who asked for a major revision. Thus, you need to make sure that you do something to try to make Reviewer 1 happy.
      – About the abstract, I think it should not be too hard to fix. He wants you to talk more about the conclusion of the paper in the abstract and its significance. Also, maybe that the abstract is not so well written. So I suggest to take the time to rewrite perhaps by looking at how other abstracts are written in your field.
      – Adding more details to the method section should not be too hard. Actually, you just need to give more information. Try to add more sentences and paragraphs to explain in more details.
      – About readability, it may be a problem of your use of the English language or how it is written. You may take more time to try to improve the paper by yourself or also ask a friend to help you revise the language. For example, if you know some native English speaker or someone who writes well, he could perhaps help you for that.
      – About the experiments, basically, I think that he wants you to calculate the standard deviation and other things. If you can do it, then it is better to do it, just to make the reviewer happy.
      – In general, you do not always need to do what the reviewer ask you. But if you choose not to do it, you need to provide a very good reason for not doing it. And the reason should not be something like : because I don’t want to do it or because I don’t have time. But if you have a good reason like the reviewer is wrong about something, then of course you don’t need to do it because it is wrong and you can explain it.
      So, I gave you my opinion. But I am from the field of Computer Science. So I could not give you very specific advices related to your field. Hope this helps. Wish you success for your paper!

      • asmaa says:

        Prof. Philippe,
        Thanks very much for your opinion and a quick response. Thanks for reading and give me your attention to help me. I will try to modify my manuscript according to these comments.
        Regards,

  9. Chloe says:

    Dear Prof. Philippe,

    Thanks for the sharing. I think the information and the tips shared throughout the comments and replies also very helpful.

    Recently I had a manuscript went through the 1st round of review and required major revision in 10 days. I did my best to revise the manuscript (even with additional data) and response to the 2 reviewers. However, it turned out to be rejected after 1 week. The 2nd round of comment from reviewer #1 is simply that the manuscript is not significant for the journal while there is no further comment from reviewer #2. I felt disappointed because I would rather they reject it for the very first time. I didn’t have to rush for the additional data and reply to address their questions while the reviewer already made up his mind to reject.

    Now I have another manuscript. It was given major revision after 1st round of review. Reviewer #1 listed a number of questions while reviewer #2 just asked 2 very general questions. I think I addressed or at least replied properly for all questions. After that I received notification for 2nd round revision, major revision again, this time given only 5 days. When I read through the comments, reviewer #1 basically thinks I addressed the comments (only 1 typo pointed out) and recommended for acceptance. Reviewer #2 asked another 2 questions again where actually in 1st round revision I added method comparison because he said not enough, now he said test data not enough. I think because of reviewer #2 rating, the editor gave “major revision” despite reviewer #1 pretty much accepted the paper. In this case, what’s your advice? I couldn’t possibly keep adding data each round and it costs a lot of time and effort. Sometimes it is not possible to be done because we did not keep the experimental setup. Also, what’s your view regarding this? If I could not answer one of the question from reviewer #2 where additional experimental data required, is it likely my manuscript will get rejected even though reviewer #1 accepted?

    • Hello,

      Glad that the blog is useful.

      Yes, it is uncommon that a paper is rejected after being accepted for a revision. But it happens. I remember that it happened to me at least once, several years ago. There can be various reasons for that. In my case, the reviewers was not very satisfied with the experiments as we did a very small experiment to validate our proposed approach. After we improved the paper, in the second round, it was rejected. I think that the reason is that even though we improved the experiments, it was still not enough for the reviewer, so he perhaps decided that it would not reach the quality standard of that journal even if we tried to improve the experiments. After a few years, in my case, I can understand that decision because that paper was submitted to a top level journal and was not so good. But yes, I agree that in general, it is not nice to accept a paper and then reject it. As a reviewer for several journals, I never do that. I think that in general, a reviewer should be able to see if the paper is good or not in the first round.

      About your current manuscript, it is good that Reviewer 1 has pretty much accepted the paper. It will put more pressure on the second reviewer to also accept the paper, as in general, the editor expects that the review process will converge after a few rounds. In general, when several reviewers evaluate the paper, the editor will often assign a decision by taking the maximum of the decisions given by all reviewers. That means for example, that if three reviewers give: accept, minor revision, and major revision, the editor will often choose “major revision” as the decision. So in your case, if reviewer #2 suggested a major revision, it is understandable that it is still a major revision, even if reviewer #1 said to accept.

      Now what should you do? There are a few possibilities:
      – I think that you should do your best to try to address the comments of reviewer 2. If you don’t address his comments, maybe he will ask for another round until you address his comments, or in the worst case, the paper could be rejected (but it is less likely at this stage).
      – 5 days is such a short amount of time. I find this very surprising. You could send a message to the editor now to ask for 30 days at least. Usually, in my field, we get at least 30 days to revise a paper. I think that it make sense. Even for professor, or students, everybody has many things on their schedule. For example, if you have a planned trip for vacation or had to attend a conference or other things, how can you do it in 5 days? It does not make sense. So I think the editor has to give you a few more weeks. Or at least you should ask for it.
      – So now the reviewer ask you do so additional work…. You can always decide to not do it. But in that case you need to have a good reason. For example, during my Ph.D thesis several years ago, I had collected data. Then, I wrote a journal paper about it a few years after. However, the original data had been destroyed due to the agreement that I had signed with my participants that ensured that the data would not be kept for more than 2 years. So, in that case, I told the reviewer that I did not have the original data anymore and that running the same experiments again would be too costly. And in the end, the paper was published. However, in my case, this was perhaps not the main request by the reviewer. But my point is that if you have a good enough reason, you may not need to do what the reviewer ask you. For example, if it would take 3 months of work in the lab, then it is probably not reasonable to do it. But if it takes a few days, then you should probably do it. If you choose to not do something, then try to find some very good reasons to support your decision (takes too much time, data has been destroyed, experimental setup does not exist…). If you don’t do everything that the reviewer ask you, you should also try to do some compromise and try to do as much as you can, or find another way to address the problem raised by the reviewer. For example, if the reviewer asks for more experiments, and you do not have the data, maybe you can do something else instead like adding some paragraphs of discussion about how other people have done experiments in your field and how it compares to other experiments, or mention in future work that you will run more experiments to at least acknowledge the problems raised by the reviewer in your paper… (I don’t know if it all make sense for your field, but it is just the main idea).

      So this is my overall opinion about this. I think that we may not be exactly from the same field (I am from computer science). But in general, the review process should work in the same way more or less. About the probability of being accepted at this stage… I think if you answer well and you show that you took the time to seriously consider all the request and answer the comments, it can be accepted. But yes, there is always a small risk that it can still be rejected. So my recommendation is to take this very seriously and do your best to try to fix the paper the best you can, because there are still some small risk at that point.

      Best regards,

      • Chloe says:

        Thank you for your reply, Prof. Philippe.

        In this case, I have several reasons why I can’t do as what the reviewer asked:
        1. We no longer have the experimental setup ready to run more test samples.
        2. It also takes time to get test samples ready.
        3. In previous revision, I added data analysis for different models (which was what the reviewer firstly questioned). In my opinion, this is more important along the focus of the paper and I have done that.
        4. Time constraint.

        However, if I reply reason #1, I feel the reviewer most likely won’t be satisfied. If I give reason #2 and #4, they probably think I should just request longer revision time. That’s why at first I plan to reply reason #3 to point out the emphasis of the paper and that we will keep his comment in mind for future work but I am worried it could be quite risky. I also think of gathering some simpler experimental data to compromise the reviewer’s request but I find it could confuse the overall paper, making it worse.

        My experience is limited in paper submission and revision. The longest revision period in my field is 3 weeks so far but this time 5 days truly a surprise to me too. I guess it has to do with the journal review process is also fast, we basically got back the reviewers comments in 1-2 weeks.

        • I see. Interesting.

          Yes, then perhaps the best solution is to:
          – mention the issue raised by the reviewer in the future work section and perhaps also in the discussion of the experimental results of your paper. It will show that you at least acknowledge the issue raised by the reviewer, and should make him perhaps a happy even though you did not do all of what he asked. It is a compromise.
          – In the letter to the editor, you could mention that the reviewer raised some new issues that he did not raised in the previous round. Actually, the reviewer has the right to do that, especially if it is some important issue. But in general, a reviewer should not do that. So you can just mention it, but politely.
          – Also in the letter, you could mention some of the reasons why you did not do it. Because, if you don,t give any good reason, then the reviewer may still want to know why you did not do it. So, you could mention something like experimental setup is missing, and you can also exaggerate a little bit to say that it would require more time than it would actually require, or find some other reasons that could help.

          Interesting… 1-2 weeks review is very fast. In my field, I think that no serious journal review papers in less than 1 month. And usually, it is more like 3 months, 6 months or sometimes up to 1 year for top journals.

          • Chloe says:

            Appreciate your prompt reply, Prof. Philippe. Thank you 🙂

            In my field, its not uncommon that we only get the first review comments after 2-3 months, could be longer. This is my first time to submit to this particular journal, I am also surprise when their first review comments came back after 2+weeks. The following revision comments came back in about 1 week.

            I have a hunch that reviewer will feel unacceptable if I tell the reason is we do not have the experimental setup and not able to get test samples ready. Since the reviewer questioned about the amount of test data, not the methodology or comparison, I find it hard to mention it as part of result discussion or future work. Well, I will try my best to reply. Fingers crossed…

  10. lh78 says:

    Dear Prof. Philippe,

    What is the etiquette for replying to the editor, right after h or she shares the referees’ reports with you? Should I send a short note acknowledging receipt and saying I will reply to the revision requests as soon as possible, or should I thank the editor and reviewers later on, in an email containing the revised manuscript?

    Sincerely,

    Grad Student

    • Hello,
      There is no need to reply to the editor right away. Actually, the editor is generally very busy so it is better to only send messages to him if there is something really important. For example, some top journals will receive up to 2000 papers per year, so the editor is very busy, besides being perhaps a professor at the same time.
      So, at this point, the most important is to prepare the revision of the paper. Typically, when you submit the revision, you need to also submit some letter that will answer the comments made by the reviewers. In that letter, you can write a sentence such as: “We would like to thanks the editor for handling the manuscript and the reviewers for their comments that have helped improved the quality of the manuscript. We have addressed all the comments made by the reviewers as follows:”
      If you write something like that, then you will say thank you to the editor in an appropriate way, without having to send an e-mail.

  11. Jamie says:

    Dear Prof Philippe,

    Thanks for sharing these useful information and tips in peer review.

    Currently, I am doing mainly theory-based research. Several days ago, I had an IEEE journal article finished the first round of review and required major revision. This journal is application-oriented but they also accept and publish articles of pure numerical simulations (I can easily find at least 3-4 publications of similar topics to mine in this journal during the past two years). Anyway, the paper got four reviewers, three of them raised some insightful questions but totally positive comments, one reviewer (Reviewer #1) was critically commented my paper as “Due to lack of the actual verification, the paper is not suitable for this application-oriented journal. The paper is full of equations, which has no physical meaning in the actual systems? The extensive experiments need to be added. The paper would be better for a theory-based journal.” Maybe because of Reviewer #1’s comments, the AE gave me a chance for Major Revision but with a comment “the main issue is the lack of experimental verification for what authors should consider in full”.

    However, in the revision, it seems impossible for me to include experimental results due to several reasons. My questions is in my situation how can I respond to Reviewer #1 and AE properly so as to increase the chance of acceptance of this paper?

    Many thanks in advance.

    Kind regards,
    Jamie

    • Hello Jamie,

      Glad that you found the blog interesting
      About your question, it is good that 3 out of 4 reviewers are positive about the paper. So, now, it is very important to convince the first reviewer as much as possible. From what I understand, you have good reasons for not doing the experiments, and do not want to do it. Of course, it would be better if you could do it. But if you cannot do it, it can also be fine. But you need to be careful about how you answer the reviewer 1. Generally, even if you cannot do it, you could try to find a compromise so that the reviewer 1 still feels that you have done something for him, even if you did not do all of what he wanted. So, for example, you could:
      – Cite a few more papers in your article to explain that you will follow the same methodology as in their paper. You can cite those papers that you mentioned that were published in the same journal. Then, in your paper, you can explain that you will follow the same methodology as them. This will help to justify what you did. But even if you found papers with the same methodology in the same journal, it is still not a 100 % guarantee that the reviewers will accept your paper. Sometimes in a journal, some paper may be accepted, while other similar papers may be rejected for whatever reasons (the editor is a friend, the reviewers did not think it was a problem but other reviewers think it is a problem, etc.).
      – Towards the end of your paper, you could also add a “discussion” section to explain the limitations of your study. So you could mention that a limitation is about not doing the real experiments and explain that you could improve this in future work, while still mentioning that there are many challenges for doing these improvements. Although, you would not do the experiment, it would show that you at least acknowledge the limitations of your study, and this can make the Reviewer 1 happy. It would be a kind of compromise between doing nothing and doing what he asked you.
      – You could aso provide several GOOD reasons in the response to the reviewers about why you could not do the experiments: it would cost too much money, you would need to spend another year of work, the data was lost or destroyed due to confidentiaty issue, etc. It should be good reasons; not: I don’t want to do it.

      So that it. I think that the key is to try to find a compromise where you can still make the Reviewer 1 happy while not doing everything that he wants.

      I think that at this point, the paper could still be rejected, so you should take this seriously.

      Wish you good luck. Best regards,

      • Jamie says:

        Dear Philippe,

        Many thanks for your prompt reply. Your suggestions really mean a lot., especially No. 2. Yes, I will add a section or at least a remark to discuss the limitations of my paper. I will also emphasise the importance of experiments, although I did not do it in the paper. The actual reason for me not doing the experiments in the revision is lack of experimental setup. As you suggestion, I should also mention it in the response.

        With your backup, I now have more confidence to make Reviewer 1 happy :).

        Thanks again.

        Kind regards,
        Jamie

  12. Sadegh says:

    Dear Prof Philippe,
    Thank you for your blog, I have seen you are replying everyone and spending time, that is really appreciable. My concern is about my paper which got a major revision, it was only one reviewer that reviewed the paper. This journal is the best journal in my major and seems like reviewer is aware of everything, but he seems unhappy with my paper and said: Although the paper is within the interest of the industry, and has applications, the way it is presented and handled makes it far from being a novel, scientific and practical paper. and at the end said As is, the paper does not provide any new ideas or methodology to this field. Also, there are too many unclear and unjustified points within the paper. Thus, there is no reason for this paper to be accepted. However, the editor asked for revised and it is not rejected, editor also asked me to compare results with engineering model rather than data driven models, Discussion on those line should be included. I spend one month to address all of their concerns, as the reviewer asked lots of questions. Do you think reviewer rejected the paper but editor asked for revision? still, i am working on the paper but worried about the result after spending so long time again for revision.
    Thank you for your time.

    • Hello,
      Glad you like the blog. I think that you are doing the right thing. You are taking the time to revise the paper. Some people do not like to revise their paper and submit it perhaps too quickly. If you spend the time, it shows that you are taking this seriously. By the way, in the response to reviewer, you can mention that you have taken several weeks to improve the paper, run new experiments, etc. This will let the reviewer(s) know that you have spent time, and reviewer(s) may appreciate that.
      It is possible that a reviewer recommend to reject a paper but that the editor does not agree and ask the authors to revise the paper anyway. This happens sometimes. For example, it can happen if the editor believes that the author can fix the issues raised by the reviewer(s) or if the editor thinks that the issues raised by the reviewer are not serious enough for rejecting the paper, or some other reasons (e.g. the editor is a friend with the author, etc.). However, at this stage, the paper could still be rejected.
      In your case, it could be that the editor decided to give you a chance. Or it could be that the reviewer requested a “major revision”. In that case the reviewer may still think that you can address the problems, although he raises many problems.

      So on overall, I think that you are doing the right thing. The most important is to try to address all the issues mentioned by the reviewer as much as you can. As this stage, it is not guaranteed that the paper will be published. So it is worth it to put a lot of effort to improve the paper. And if the paper is eventually rejected, your paper will be improved and perhaps more easily accepted in other journals.

      Regards,

      • Sadegh says:

        Thank you so much for your reply. I will appreciate if you can help with some of the reviewer concerns.
        1) No attempt has been done for optimizing your ANN, such that how many layers, how many nodes, the methodology, etc has never optimized. Why did you use backpropagation, for example?

        In this study a back-propagation-type neural networks with an input, an output and, one hidden layer were applied which in most of the cases one hidden layer is satisfactory[12, 13]. Therefore A three layer ANN with a tangent sigmoid transfer function (tansig) at hidden layer and a linear transfer function (purelin) at output layer were implemented. To optimize ANN, 1 – 23 neurons in the hidden layer were trained at least five times using different sets (randomly generated) of initial weights to find the lowest mean squared error[14]. Data had been distributed randomly into three different groups (70% for training, 15% for the testing set, and 15% for cross validation). The validation was used to prevent overtraining. The principle is this as training proceeds, the training error function will decrease and the result of applying a validation set will improve. However, after some point, further iteration will likely not improve performance on the validation set. At this point, training should be stopped[15]. Fig. 1 shows the evolution of the mean squared error of the predicted values of the apparent viscosity during the training and validation steps, depending on the number of hidden neurons of the neural networks architecture. The result shows that the R2 obtained the highest value of 0.9515 and MSE achieved the lowest amount of 0.0019, after the application of 10 hidden neurons. More than 50 neural network models have been devised so far, and it is found that the back-propagation learning algorithm based on the generalized delta rule by Rumelhart et al. (1986) [16] is the most popular and efficient learning procedure for multilayer neural networks. The multilayer perceptron (MLP) networks are currently the most widely used neural networks. These networks can do the classification for patterns having nonlinearly separable boundaries since the network consists of many neurons. Back propagation neural network (BPNN) has been successfully used as a mapping and prediction tool in the petroleum engineering field and its application is proven [17-20].
        2)
        No details are provided with respect to GA part. At least, during the example, final genetic code could be provided.
        Genetic algorithm uses the similar steps to the biological evolution: natural selection; intercross; variation; and surviving of the fittest. It has four basic elements: genetic code; initial population setting; fitness function; and genetic operator.

        Genetic code
        Since the binary code cause an encoded string too long, learning efficiency is reduced. Therefore, real number coding is used for data in the process of ROP optimization[11].
        Do you think in this way of replying he will be satisfied?
        Thank you so much again, it is really appreciable that you are helping us without any demand, God bless you.

        • I think 1) is a quite good answer. 2) might be a good answer. But maybe it is a little bit short. If you can add a little bit more details, it may be better.

          Regards,

          • Sadegh says:

            How about like this:
            Genetic algorithm was put forward by Professor J. Holland in the University of Michigan in 1975. Its main characteristics consist of group search strategy, information exchange among individuals, gradient independent researching, and no requirement of differentiable functions. The only requirement is that the function is solvable under the given constraints, so the method is suitable for all kinds of complex non-linear problems. Genetic algorithm uses the similar steps to the biological evolution: natural selection; intercross; variation; and surviving of the fittest. It has four basic elements: genetic code; initial population setting; fitness function; and genetic operator.

            Genetic code
            Since the binary code cause an encoded string too long, learning efficiency is reduced. Therefore, real number coding is used for data in the process of ROP optimization[11].
            Initial group setting
            Because genetic algorithm is an iterative operation of the groups, an initial group is needed. In this paper, the initial group is randomly selected. The initial group is operated by genetic operation and generates groups of offspring step by step until the optimal is reached.

            Fitness function
            Fitness function Z is calculated as follows:
            z=∑▒〖(〖ROP〗_(real,i)-〖ROP〗_(model,i))〗^2

            Genetic operator

            The genetic operator includes three types: selection operator; crossover operator; and mutation operator. Genetic algorithm is the key of the algorithm and embodies the thought of survival of the fittest. For selecting a chromosome from the group of chromosomes as parent chromosome for the next generation, the disk selection method can be used.
            A crossover operator is a must in the genetic algorithm and is expressed with a crossover probability Pc. The crossover operation of real-number-coding is realized through doing arithmetic crossover calculation of probability Pc. The formula is as follows:

            Offspring1 = Pc × Parent1 + (1- Pc) × Parent2
            Offspring2 = (1 – Pc) × Parent1 + Pc × Parent2

            The function of mutation operation is to change a character in a certain location of a string with probability Pm. It can compensate the loss of genetic material by mutation operation. Mutation ensures the global convergence of genetic algorithm. The mutation probability value Pm is small, usually Pm=1−Pc.
            Thank you very much for your kind help.

          • It is better. But for me, it is not very clear what the reviewer wants for 2). In 2), the reviewer wrote “No details are provided with respect to GA part. At least, during the example, final genetic code could be provided.”. From my understanding, the reviewer wants more details about the “GA part”. I think this means to provide more details about how it works. You have done this. But the reviewer also ask that you provide more details in the example by giving the full genetic code. So I think that you also need to add details to the example.

            By the way, you should also revise the English as there are some English errors.

  13. Sadegh says:

    Thank you very much indeed. It is not clear for me also what he meant by genetic code? If he means objective function I have mention that. In my project GA will use ANN network to find the optimum parameters in order to find maximum rate of peneration which is the output. I have given an example how to find constraints to find lower and upper limit for optimization using GA. Do you think the reviewer know what is GA? Because at the beginning he was saying: 1) What is the purpose of using ANN and GA together? It is said that GA is used to maximize ROP. However, ANN can also do that during the process. So, why GA is also added?
    Of course ANN can find the answer for us but it tqke more time, using GA will be easier and faster. I am wonder why first he asked this question then later he said what is genetic code.

  14. Jon says:

    Dear professor,
    I would like to thank you for this article and the efforts you are doing to help people.
    I found this article very helpful as I’m actually in the process of revising my paper.
    I would like to ask how to deal with the situation I’m in. I sent my paper to a journal, the paper has been examined by two reviewers. The second reviewer gave me some precise points to revise and add. Whereas the first reviewer mentioned that the paper lacks for intellectual value without pointing out anything else that I can work on except that the writing contains a lot of errors.
    So, besides correcting the language errors, how can I answer to this review?
    Best regards.

    • Hello,
      Glad that the article is useful. This situation has happened to me before. I will explain how I deal with this situation. You should first try to do everything that the second reviewer asks, and make sure to do it well to make sure that the second reviewer will be satisfied, and suggest to accept your paper. This will help you for the next round in case the first reviewer still give you trouble. Now, let’s talk about the first reviewer. The first reviewer seems to think that your paper did not deserve to be published or may not be very worthy, for whatever reasons. He did not mention the reasons, and the editor of the journal has read the comments of both reviewers and suggested that you revise your paper. Thus, in some way, it means that the editor indirectly think that your paper is worthy if you fix the remaining problems. Now, about the comments of the first reviewer, you can obviously only address his specific comments about writing errors. The other problems that he did not mention you cannot address them and it is not your fault. So in that case, you just write something like that: “The only specific comments by reviewer 1 were related to writing errors. We have fixed all these comments as follow:”. And then you can explain what you have changed.

      This is how I address this situation. Actually, it is the fault of the reviewer if he does not give enough comments. You can only address the comments that are specific enough.

      Now, if you do as I suggested, it is still possible that the first reviewer ask to revise the paper again with more specific comments next time. This is a risk. But there is nothing you can do about it. It is the fault of the reviewer for not being specific enough. But if there would be another round, there will be a lot of pressure on the first reviewer to accept your paper, since normally the reviewing process should converge rather than always adding some new comments. Besides, if reviewer 2 accepts the paper, then there is more pressure on reviewer 1 to accept it if there is another round of review.

      Best,

      • jon says:

        Thank you very much professor Philippe, your answer is really helping me on how to adress the answer for the reviewers.
        Best regards.

  15. aayushi says:

    I got reviews from 2 reviewers: Reviewer 1 gave major revisions while Reviewer 2 liked the paper and asked for minor revisions. Reviewer 1 has asked me to reduce the length of the paper, while Reviewer 2 has asked me to add few sections related to literature survey and computation time results. This has increased the length of my paper. However, I feel if I reduce the length the paper will lose its purpose as I have added only relevant material in it. How do I address Reviewer 1 that its not possible to reduce it?

    • Hi, I see. The reviewers have some conflicting opinions. In that case, I would do as follows. I would first address the specific requests of Reviewer 2. Then for the comment about reducing the length, you may consider that it only applies to the section that are not mentioned by reviewer 2. Even if you don’t want to reduce the length, you should try to make some compromise by making the paper more concise but without removing much information. How to do this? You could try to remove redundancy if there is some in your paper, and try to rewrite some explanations more briefly. Or sometimes, if your paper is about sciences, you may be able to rewrite some definitions more concisely by defining them formally using some mathematical notation. Then, in the response to reviewers, you should mention that reviewer 2 asked to add more content, while reviewer 1 ask to remove some, and that Reviewer 1 did not mention the specific content that should be removed. Thus, you have added the content requested by Reviewer 2, while rewritten more concisely the other parts of the paper. Thus, the length of the paper may be greater. This should be fine. If you can leave a note to the editor when you resubmit, you may also mention that the reviewers had conflicting opinions.

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