Thursday, January 8, 2009

How to reply to referees' comments when submitting manuscripts for publication

Williams HC.

Centre of Evidence Based Dermatology, Queen's Medical Centre, United Kingdom.

BACKGROUND: The publication of articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals is a fairly complex and step-wise process that involves responding to referees' comments. Little guidance is available in the biomedical literature on how to deal with such comments. OBJECTIVE: The objective of this article is to provide guidance to novice writers on dealing with peer review comments in a way that maximizes the chance of subsequent acceptance. METHODS: This will be a literature review and review of the author's experience as a writer and referee. RESULTS: Where possible, the author should consider revising and resubmitting rather than sending an article elsewhere. A structured layout for responding to referees' comments is suggested that includes the 3 golden rules: (1) respond completely; (2) respond politely; and (3) respond with evidence. CONCLUSION: Responding to referees' comments requires the writer to overcome any feelings of personal attack, and to instead concentrate on addressing referees' concerns in a courteous, objective, and evidence-based way.

I think this is a useful article, particularly for young researchers submitting their first articles.
In general, it is important to learn how to cope with peer commentaries early on, specially the ones from referees and to get the best out of them. A rejection letter can lead to suggestions that can greatly improve the article and can even result in acceptance in a better-ranked journal(1)

(1) Jefferson T et al., Effects of editorial peer review: a systematic review. JAMA 2002; 287:2784-6.