Always listen to reviewers


13 October 2010


This week I was asked to review a paper that I had seen before. It had been submitted to a journal a few months ago and I had written a detailed report describing some problems with the paper, and noting a large number of typos that needed fixing. That journal had rejected the paper, the authors had submitted it to a second journal, and the paper ended up on my desk again for review. I was interested to see what the authors had done about the problems I had described. Alas, nothing had changed. Not even the typos. It was identical to the previous version with every error still there. So I sent the same report off to the second journal advising the editor of the situation.

I’m not sure what the authors imagined would happen. It is not uncommon for a paper to be sent to the same reviewer after it has been rejected by one journal, especially when the field of potential reviewers for some topics is quite small. This paper was on an extension to the automatic time series modelling procedures provided in the forecast package for R. Since I am the author of the forecast package for R, the probability of me being asked to review the paper is approximately one.

In general, always listen to reviewers, even if the paper has been rejected by the journal that sent you the reviews. While you are not obliged to respond to everything in a review when you are not sending a revision back to the same journal, you should think about what has been said and revise the paper accordingly. At least fix the typos! If the same reviewers see it again, they won’t be happy if you’ve ignored them. Also, they may just have some useful comments that will lead to improvements in your paper.