The double blind peer review system is believed to be the gold standard of academic gatekeeping. It shouldn’t give an advantage to seasoned academic superstars over emerging newcomers. The reviewers should evaluate each work according to its educational value, provided that the research is sound. While the peer review process is double blind, two non-blind players participate in the process: the author and the editor. Thus, theory and practice are not the same things.
Qualified editors will always prefer better-written papers. It does not matter if the article is written by an academic star or a junior scholar. However, this is a decision that the editors have to make because the pressure of publication is so high that journals receive more submissions than they can publish and fewer qualified reviewers than required to make accurate decisions.
Learning with experience
Early career researchers frequently draw the following conclusions after receiving publication feedback:
- Since the reviewers can’t agree on anything, this article won’t be accepted for publication in this journal.
- I have to respond to all of the reviewers’ feedback, even the ones I can’t entirely agree with.
- Although the editor has said that it is a revise and resubmit (R&R), I cannot take into account the reviewers’ suggestions. Thus, this is genuinely a rejection.
The truth is that editors want the most excellent article they can produce, and they want to be able to assure reviewers that the author has read and considered their comments.
So, what should an author do when faced with reviews?
Read the reviews carefully, adapt and respond
As a writer, you are frequently more knowledgeable than the reviewers in your particular field, but because they are the gatekeepers, both you and your editor must take their criticism seriously.
Although it is regrettably not unheard of to obtain unfavorable or amateurish reviews, in most circumstances, the reviewers will have something insightful to offer. They will probably have different perspectives on your article, though, and you won’t always agree with all they say. As a result, the editor frequently issues an R&R with only the following instructions: “These are the two reviews; please revise and resubmit accordingly.”
The next thing is to start revising your paper by addressing the reviewer’s comments with a positive mindset. Highlight all the modifications you did and write down the changes under each comment.
Once you are done with your changes, it is time to resubmit your paper. Once that happens, the editor has a lot of power over what they can do.
- They might judge by comparing the original article, the reviews, the justification in the response letter, and the changed article, concluding that they should be rejected or accepted.
- They can choose one or more reviewers to whom they will send the revised article with or without the letter and request their feedback on whether or not the revisions have improved the article’s quality.
- They may choose another reviewer to provide a second set of eyes to help determine how the article appears.