ask a scatterbrain: R&R response letter

With all the discussion about journals, submitting, and reviewing, there has been little discussion about the revise-and-resubmit response letter….

What is necessary to include in a response letter to the editors and reviewers?  What is overkill?  How long have your letters been? Have you written separate letters for each reviewer?   How do you explain away changes you didn’t make because you didn’t agree with the reviewer?  etc.

Thanks y’all!  Looking forward to SF!

8 thoughts on “ask a scatterbrain: R&R response letter”

  1. I confess to writing a detailed letter in which I chronicle each change made, starting with the major changes, including page numbers where text was altered. Where I disagree with reviewers, I make a note of that explaining my position on why I did not accommodate the change. I have no idea if this is viewed as helpful or annoying (helpfully annoying?). Would love to hear from others.


  2. The length of mine varies depending on the length of the reviewer comments. I go point-by-point and respond with whether I made the change, if so where, and if not why. So, responses for each reviewer, but done in a way that a new reviewer or the editor could see what was going on without digging out the old criticisms.


  3. I generally structure my reply around the editors’ letter, and not reviewers. My feeling is that editors point to the reviews (and parts of reviews) they think are the most helpful. I then speak to those points.


  4. I more or less do what Tina does, with the exception of not usually going too nuts with the page numbers. I do try to respond to each issue raised by each reviewer, even if only to politely say it’s foolish, so that no reviewer feels like I haven’t taken them seriously.

    One thing to keep in mind is that if you aren’t going to do what a reviewer wants because it would be foolish you can always demonstrate why in the reviewer letter. I’ve actually performed analyses just for the reviewer letter so they understand why I’m not doing what was suggested.


  5. “Overkill” probably never hurts you, but is not always necessary. I’m not particularly fond of the trend towards R&R response letters that are as long as the article. I mean, yes, they are impressive when well done. But the trend toward expecting such documents seems to me to be system-irrational and more and more time of good scholars is spent writing documents that only two or three reviewers will ever see.

    To be honest, I’m much less impressed by a revised MS that does everything the reviewers asked for than by a revised MS an author has improved in ways unanticipated by the reviewers.

    The assumption that no article ever gets accepted as is has led to a pattern whereby savvy article-writers send in a product they know is unfinished with the idea that the final revisions might as well be made in light of the particular set of reviewers they happen to have. Thus reviewers are expected to become uncredited coauthors and reviewers tolerate obviously-unpolished submissions because that has become the norm.

    All these trends bug me, but I suppose it is too late to reverse them.


  6. The trend towards constant and extensive revision is annoying. As a reviewer, at some point I think you have to ask yourself ‘did this manuscript meet the goal it set for itself? and is that goal worthy for publication in this journal’. If the answers to these are yes, then it’s time to recommend acceptance.

    One way to reverse the trend might be if editors started accepting (or conditionally accepting) the highest quality/polished manuscripts. Then you would know if you worked hard and polished your submission it could have a shot at acceptance. Quality of submissions might go up, and time to publication down. Both good things for the discipline.


  7. I write a brief letter highlighting the major changes. The letter also explains any changes I made that were not requested by the reviewers, such as adding a discussion of X because I realized that it would help inform Y.

    I also include a table that lists each critique on one side and what I did about it on the other side with page numbers and references. I do one table for each reviewer, but I reference a previous line if a point was brought up by another reviewer so it is not too redundant. Yes, the tables can go on for several pages, but when I re-review an R&R I really like these types of tables because I can see exactly what was done.

    I will also mention that I have never done everything that a reviewer asked. When I do not, I explain why. I have also included analysis just for a reviewer to show why I did not do something.

    I have had a couple R&R papers recently that were sent to new reviewers after the R&R. I’ve been curious whether my revisions letter also went to the new reviewers…


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