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The editor asks for substantial revisions, and sent me two reviews. One of the referees says that I should address issue X by means of approaches A and B.

In my revision, I plan to take on board this comment, but I think that approach C is a better way to address issue X. Therefore, I’ll do C instead of A and B.

In my reply to the referee, I will explain why I did C and why I think that approach C is better than A and B, and at the same time I want to add a sentence like this one:

“I am open to the possibility that the referee might still prefer approaches A and B. If that is the case, I will switch to these approaches in the eventuality of a further revision, should the referee request it.”

Is this correct? What is normally done in these situations?

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I would not include the final quoted paragraph unless you want to make the change back to A and B. In diplomatic language, being "open to a possibility" could be read as almost asking to do it. I would simply not include that part. Also, while constructive criticism of A and B is OK, try to go out of your way not to criticize it as a bad suggestion. In other words, if possible, justify why C is better while also accepting that A and B would be reasonable. This is likely to get a better response from the referee, since it has constructive engagement with their comments rather than rejection. –  Oswald Veblen Jun 18 at 11:08

1 Answer 1

up vote 11 down vote accepted

In my reply to the referee, I will explain why I did C and why I think that approach C is better than A and B

This is essentially all you need to do. You don't need to follow reviewers' recommendations slavishly, but if you do decide to deviate from their recommendations, you should explain why. Which you plan on doing. In the end, it comes down to the editor's decision, so you should always strive to make his life easy, by explaining what you do and why.

"I am open to the possibility that the referee might still prefer approaches A and B. If that is the case, I will switch to these approaches in the eventuality of a further revision, should the referee request it."

This adds a nice touch, without appearing subservient. I'll keep this in mind for the next time I decide not to follow a reviewer's recommendations ;-)

Bottom line: I'd say you are doing exactly the right thing.


EDIT: Bonus points if you can and do write something along these lines in your response to the reviewer:

"In addition to C, which is described in the manuscript, I also did A and B, as suggested by the reviewer. The results, as measured by Y, are similar/inferior/whatever to the results of doing C, in the following way:..."

And I do see the point raised by @xLeitix in his comment. The "open to the possibility" should not come across as "I'll use an inferior approach just to get published", but rather as "if opinions about A/B vs. C can differ reasonably, I am open to..."

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Actually, I would not add the second sentence. It does sound like you are open to doing something that you honestly think is a bad idea just to make the reviewer happy. Other than that +1 –  xLeitix Jun 18 at 11:07
    
Thanks to everyone. The issue of A and B versus C is just technical, e.g. I think that C is more straightforward and it provides more information than A and B, so to speak. But A and B are "not that bad" either. I'll keep the suggestion of not sounding desperate in mind. –  user17585 Jun 19 at 20:38

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