One of the Reviewer comments for a paper that I sent to a journal is the following:

The authors claim that they are the first to use subjective questionnaires to develop predictive models. This is not accurate, there are many studies on the literature that use questionnaires and some of them even compare PQ to objective data coming from sensors in order to find correlations.

Now the problem is that I have done a thorough check and have observed that this paper indeed is first to use questionnaire to develop predicitve models for the particular disorder. Now how do I handle such a comment?

  • 1
    It seems that you are not the first to have used the method. Rather is the first time for a particular disorder. I wouldn't stress "we are the first using SQ to. ....." which gives emphasis to method novelty but rather " we are the first obtaining a predictive model for particular disorder using the SQ meth". Obviously I am not writing for your paper :) I just suggest the cut that your paper should probably have.
    – Alchimista
    Jan 20 '18 at 19:47

I think there's no contradiction. The reviewer said "...first to use subjective questionnaires to develop predictive models", while you said "...first to use subjective questionnaires to develop predictive models for the particular disorder" (emphasis mine).

I would just write in a response what you said, and ask for clarification - something like "I have done a thorough check ... the particular disorder. If the reviewer is aware of a previous paper has also used subjective questionnaires for this disorder, please point it out".

  • The reviewer have actually pointed out some references defending his point. But they do not use questionnaire to develop predictive models and use different data or analysis.
    – prashanth
    Jan 17 '18 at 9:05

It may be the case that your paper is the first to use this method for a very specific area/field/subject/topic. If so, it may be unclear to the reader that it is the first in that sense.

You may try to argue that, if there is a rebut option; if not, try to make it clearer on the text for the final version if it gets accepted.

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