What we say and what we mean in our responses to reviewers.
Diplomacy is becoming a bit of a lost art on the world stage at the moment, but it’s one that scientists still routinely practice. Politely replying to a paper’s reviewers, often through gritted teeth and with white knuckles, tends to produce some phrases that would grace any ambassador’s speech. TIRsamples a few.
|What authors write:||What authors mean:|
|We were surprised at the reviewer’s reaction to these data…||We believe that this reviewer is a very unhappy person right now and taking it out on us.|
|We would prefer not to implement…||We’re not going to do it. Not unless you force us.|
|We are very grateful to the reviewer…||We are not grateful at all.|
|We would like to thank the reviewer for bringing this to our attention.||That was the interpretation we were trying to sweep under the carpet.|
|We feel that this would be outside the scope of the present work.||The reviewer is trying to make us produce a whole second paper.|
|We had accidentally overlooked this publication…||Oh man, you totally saved us from making fools of ourselves.|
|We have added the requested citations.||We have cited the reviewer’s own papers, which we disagree with.|
|We have incorporated the model suggested by the reviewer.||We have now included the reviewer’s pet theory, but we still don’t believe it.|
|We respectfully disagree with the reviewer’s assessment.||The reviewer is our main competitor.|
|We were pleased that two of the three reviewers were enthusiastic about the paper.||We're just going to ignore the hostile reviewer.|
|This point was actually addressed in the earlier paragraph.||The reviewer has clearly not read the paper carefully enough.|
|Reviewer 1 raised a large number of issues, but these were mostly small corrections.||Reviewer 1 is a postdoc.|
|We have implemented the small number of suggestions made by the reviewer.||We love this reviewer! Why can’t all reviewers be like this?|
|As requested, we have moved these data to the supplementals||We really don’t care any more. Just please, please accept it for publication.|
|We feel it would be premature to…||That’s the start of our next paper.|
|It had not escaped our notice that…||It had totally escaped our notice that…|
|Due to space constraints…||We can’t be bothered to include this.|
|We were delighted at the reviewers’ assessments.||This was the best pampering we've ever had.|
|The reviewer has already made this point once before.||This review was written by multiple people in one group who took turns trashing it.|
|We feel that inclusion of the data from this control would be superfluous.||That experiment was done by a rotation student and it looks terrible.|
|As was stated by Shaw et al, 1923…||You think you can out-reference us? Brace yourself!|
|This feedback was not terribly constructive.||Seriously, who let this animal off its leash? They’re psychotic.|
|We feel that speculating on this point would be unproductive.||We’re not going to tell you what experiments we’re doing next.|
|We have removed our speculation on this point.||Fine, be boring and unimaginative. We don’t care, we’ve got ideas to burn.|
|Repeating the experiments in another species would be beyond the scope of the present work||The reviewer has only skimmed the manuscript and this was the best they could come up with.|
|We have, as requested, re-arranged and cropped all the images and put scale bars on every one.||Why are microscopists so unbelievably fussy?|
|Upon consideration, we decided to remove this panel from the figure.||We realised that we’ve lost the raw data so we can’t rebut your point.|
|We do not think that adding more data would develop this point.||The first author is no longer in the group and nobody else knows how to do the assay.|
|Implementing this request would be far from trivial.||Our collaborator is refusing to do it. Do you want to try and persuade them? We can’t.|
|The reviewer may be underestimating the difficulty of this request.||If they actually understood the technique, they would realise that what they are asking for is literally impossible.|
|We would like to thank the reviewer for their constructive and balanced critique.||Hallelujah! For once, somebody actually knows how to do this job properly.|
|We think this criticism was rather unfair.||You made the first author cry.|
Acknowledgements: Graham Warren and Oliver Hoeller, for suggestions and feedback.
Originally published (with more profane language) in Total Internal Reflection - here.
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