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07/10/2016

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Trevor Hedberg

This advice is consistent with what I was told the very first time I received advice on tackling an R&R. I've had several, and although some of them had required multiple revisions, I have so far always succeeded in turning those R&Rs into publications. So there's a little anecdotal evidence that this advice is on target.

Joshua Mugg

Great post. I was fortunate to receive similar advice when I started publishing (I have only had one paper accepted without revisions).

I thought it is worth noting that not all R&Rs are created equal, and they differ from journal to journal. Some journal's R&R re-submission acceptance rate is 50/50, others are much lower. Some R&Rs are practically 'accepted', but the reviewers just want you to add some bells and whistles. Others are basically a 'maybe there is a publishable paper here: rewrite along these lines and MAYBE it would be publishable.' Marcus, your experience seems to be along the lines of something in the middle, but I have had a couple of papers that were at the later end of the spectrum.

Postdoc

I also received similar advice from my supervisor, and can report similar experiences--no R&Rs rejected, although some have required an additional round of revisions.

For me, it was helpful to get a look at the other side after I started reviewing journal articles. When you write up a referee report, especially one that recommends a R&R, you'll spend hours combing through the paper, trying to make sure you follow the argument as best you can, and making helpful suggestions for revision. In most cases, you're reading the paper with considerably more care than a standard reader, so it's frustrating when an author simply dismisses your criticisms and suggestions as based on misunderstandings. It is, of course, helpful to point out that the referee misunderstood the paper. But at the same time, you need to make sure that you take the referee's interpretation seriously, and do everything in your power to limit the possibility of future readers arriving at the same erroneous interpretation.

In general, if I recommend an R&R and the author makes a good faith effort to respond to and accommodate my criticisms, I'm unlikely to reject the resubmitted paper. Rather, if the paper still fails to adequately overcome my initial criticisms, I'll probably recommend a second round of revisions. While I'm sure some editors will only make an accept/reject decision on a revised manuscript, I've found that many are perfectly willing to allow for multiple rounds of revisions if this is what the referees recommend.

Pendaran Roberts

As a young career researcher I've had more luck than many (although not all) with publishing. I did it by continually revising and trying to improve papers based on referee comments and never giving up on getting my ideas published. It's a stressful process. An R&R, when one comes along, is a big relief. I've only ever had one R&R rejected, and this was due to a referee who, as far as I can tell, was insane (I'm not exaggerating).

Here are my tips for R&R's.

1. The cover letter/response to referees should be thorough. I've written well over 5k words before responding to referee comments.

2. Always be very kind to referees and say how grateful you are.

3. Always try to make some change to the main text when responding to a comment; at minimum you should add a footnote.

4. Bold everything content related in the paper that's changed (you don't have to bold a fixed typo you caught).

5. If you are absolutely convinced a referee's comment is off base, add a footnote interpreting the referee as charitably as you can. Then respond to that interpretation, even if it's obvious what to say.

Generally, I do not try to stand up to referees often. I've heard some do. I guess when I get an R&R, I want to make sure it goes through, as they are rare indeed. I think many referees just auto reject everything.

A problem with my strategy might be that I allow referees to expand my papers significantly. I usually add 1000 words or more for referees. Thus, many of my papers are 9K or more, which is on the long side for sure.

This said, I like publishing long papers. They feel like substantial contributions. And people do read them, although who knows how many read them from start to finish. LOL

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