The Sassy Scientist – Pick Your Battles

The Sassy Scientist – Pick Your Battles

As I already mentioned in the past, anonymity can lead to bad reviews. A state of namelessness can empower younger scientists to criticize manuscripts from potential future employers. But it also allows unaccommodating reviewers to stall a perfectly good submission for…reasons? Meia has encountered, or heard of such buffoons, and wonders:

How to deal with an anonymous unreasonable reviewer?

Dear Meia,

How to deal with one of those, indeed? In principle the editor should come to the rescue when things reach a stalemate. In such an ideal world, simply reply to reviewer 2 (we all know it’s reviewer 2. It always is), highlight the nature of their unreasonableness and resubmit. If the harassment continues, feel free to contact the editor and voice your concerns about the fool. The editor knows the identity of the reviewers and can ask them to back off.

Now, two things can happen. In a world of stars and unicorns, the editor will understand your reasons, realise you have done your best under the circumstances and, with the appropriate amount of deus-ex-machina magic, allow the publication process to go forward.

In the world where Donald Trump and Giorgia Meloni are allowed to lead countries, the editor might not be willing to intercede on your behalf. Maybe they feel the editor’s job is to be hands-off, or perhaps they are simply having too much fun watching the drama unfold. Or even worse, they might be in on it. At this point you have two choices:

  1. Cave. Give in. Surrender. If you are still talking to reviewer 2, the paper has not been rejected yet. So hold on very tight to the flimsy ray of hope that still exists and just do what the reviewer asks. They ruined your paper, but at least you’d have a paper.
  2. Is the request too unreasonable? Are you asked to go back to the lab and repeat measurements that took you months the first time around? Have you already caved, and the reviewer came up with some new lunacy? Give up. Tacitus said: “He that fights and runs away, May turn and fight another day; But he that is in battle slain, Will never rise to fight again.” Withdraw the manuscript from the current journal and re-submit somewhere else, hoping it won’t land on the desk of the same reviewer again.

You probably were hoping there is a magic bullet here. Unfortunately there isn’t.

Yours truly

The Sassy Scientist

PS: You may never know the identity of reviewer 2 but take comfort in knowing that the time might come to get back at the editor who enabled them. Trust me, I know. And it is glorious!

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I am currently employed at a first tier research institute where I am continuously working with the greatest minds to further our understanding of the solid Earth system. Whether it is mantle or lithosphere structure and dynamics, solid Earth rheology parameters, earthquake processes, integrating observations with model predictions or inversions: you have read a paper of mine. Even if you are working on a topic I haven’t mentioned here, I still know everything about it. Do you have any problems in your research career? I have already experienced them. Do you struggle with your work-life balance? Been there, done that. Nowadays, I have only one hobby: helping you out by answering the most poignant questions in geodynamics, research and life. I am waiting for you right here. Get inspired.

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