Somewhat cryptic reviews, any advice?

We just got the referee and editor comments back on a paper we’ve been trying to get out for some time now. We first aimed high with a glamor mag and got some very encouraging reviews back from the editor but they were ultimately asking us to do far more than we can reasonably do (essentially asking us for experiments that would require us to develop a collaboration because we have no expertise in the type of very technically challenging and error-prone experiments they asked for) so we decided to shoot a tad lower and go for a very nice but non-glamour mag journal. We just got revision comments back from that review and I’m a tad confused by the comments from the editor.

We had the standard 2 referee report. 1 referee is clearly on our side, in fact, she said “now acceptable for publication” in the review and also noted that we had appeased the comments of both referees. I was pretty happy about that. The other reviewer didn’t seem so happy and has asked us to do yet more experiments including several that they did not ask for the first time around (this frustrates me to no end, if you didn’t think of it the first time then don’t ask for it the second time). If we did all the experiments suggested by the reviewer we would end up with about 15 multi panel figures. This is obviously excessive. I should qualify that all the experiments suggested are very interesting and we would like to do them but at some point you have to consider that a paper can only be so long and can only fry so many fish.

The interesting thing was the comment from the reviewing editor. They state right up front that the manuscript is potentially acceptable for publication and that they want to see a revised manuscript soon but they use the words “major revisions”. They also say that they are going to carefully review the manuscript and the response to the reviewers suggesting that they are not going to send it back to the referees (one clearly said accept anyway). The language is a bit cryptic so while I don’t think they are going to send it back to the referee that we have not fully convinced I cannot be 100% certain. The language of the editors really suggests to me that they would like to see the paper in the journal.

We would be very happy to have this manuscript published in this journal so we don’t want to blow the opportunity by taking anything for granted. If we do all that the non-convinced reviewer has asked us to do we have 4-6 months of work ahead of us before we can get a revision in. This thought makes me sick to my stomach because we have advanced this work significantly into another area and we are almost ready to get that paper submitted too but it has to wait on this one. On the other hand, we can do a completely different experiment, which the reviewer has not asked for, that would very strongly support our contention but through a negative rather than positive result. That experiment would take less than a week. I am strongly inclined to do the fast experiment and make considerable text revisions and get this puppy back in. It does seem that the editors are on our side and a quick turn-around would hopefully catch them while they are still feeling good about what we have done.

So, dear reader, what do you think? Am I off my rocker or does this sound like a reasonable path to acceptance?

6 responses to “Somewhat cryptic reviews, any advice?

  1. Do the quick one, explain it diplomatically in the letter to the editor, and make the usual statement that the referees’ insightful suggestions (which are highly appreciated), while beyond the scope of the current manuscript, will be of great use to further research efforts on the project.

    If the quick experiment gets at the root of the referee’s concerns, the editor should appreciate it.

  2. Ask the fucken editor what she thinks before you decide what to do.

  3. Its an academic editor not a professional editor. Still kosher?

  4. Absolutely still kosher. Whenever I run into that kind of reviewer that asks for 3 papers worth of experiments as an add-on (probably to end up in supplemental data), I always contact the editor to discuss and advocate for what I think is the best option (fast/1 wk option sounds good!). I have found most academic editors to be very responsive to this kind of query, maybe because they run their own labs and can directly appreciate the amount of time and money it takes for revisions, as well as what the scope of a paper realistically should be. That’s especially true if you are getting good vibes from the editor.

  5. Still ask the editor that way you know whether its a wasted endeavor to do the short experiment, but my money is on it. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and follow up experiments to try and get into better journals.

  6. thanks for the advice CPP, Bugdoc and GR… i asked, they answered, we resubmitted and paper got accepted today. Very happy to have this one all wrapped up!

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