11

From a computer science conference, I have received 4 reviews. Two of the reviewers have accepted the article and have appreciated the work, while the other two have given "weak reject". The conference has asked us to submit a rebuttal within 3 days (seems a hard deadline; but it is okay).

My question is:

  • Should I write the rebuttal for all the reviews? or
  • Should I write the rebuttal for the comments on the weak-reject decisions?
  • 3
    You can use something like, "thank you for your complimentary remarks" for the first two reviewers. – The Guy Aug 31 '18 at 16:50
  • @TheGuy Is it alright to say "the minor concern shown by the reviewer 1 can be fixed during the final version submission". ? – Coder Aug 31 '18 at 17:25
  • 3
    I am not a fan of that + I am not in your field so I cannot say for sure. I feel that if something can be fixed, it should be fixed right away (whenever possible)! – The Guy Aug 31 '18 at 17:30
24

You should address comments from all the reviewers, but focus on responding to the negative reviews.

Also, it's always good to say something generic like "we thank all four reviewers for their time and thoughtful comments".

If the reviews include questions, definitely respond to those questions. If the reviews include helpful suggestions, acknowledge them and say that you will implement them in the final version.

When responding to the negative reviews, acknowledge what they have said and then explain why you think differently. Avoid sounding combative.

  • 6
    Don't try to avoid sounding combative - don't sound combative, period. It simply doesn't help, and instead it just harms the response. It's not always easy and it may take several rounds of stepping away from the response text or having someone neutral review it (which may be hard on such a tight deadline), but any combative language needs to be critically examined in the light of "how does this language help get the reviewer and editor to accept the paper" instead of "how good does including this language make us feel". – E.P. Aug 31 '18 at 19:30
  • 4
    @E.P. Do or do not. There is no try. – Thomas supports Monica Aug 31 '18 at 20:06
  • 2
    @ Thomas I fought hard against the temptation and succeeded, but I see that... ahem... others didn't try as hard. – E.P. Aug 31 '18 at 20:11
12

I recommend the following but I look forward to seeing other approaches (this is my personal approach and by no means the best).

How to Respond to a Review
Every time I respond to reviewers, I create a document. I write a short paragraph thanking the reviewers for their time and state my responses to their comments are below. I copy each reviewer's comments, organized by reviewer (my preference). Beneath each comment, I write a response. If I make a change, I specify where and how I've updated the paper. If I disagree, I state that I respectfully disagree and then elaborate on why. I may choose to include tables, figures, or references in this document that are solely intended for the reviewers.

By doing this, each reviewer can quickly and easily see my responses to their comments as well as my responses to the other reviewers. Where there are similar or duplicate comments, I have similar or duplicate responses to make it easier for the reviewers. I have found this approach to work well---it also helps the editor weigh the totality of the review and my responses.

I send this PDF with the updated paper back in; my hope is that it demonstrates to the editor and reviewers that their comments have been taken seriously.


Sample Format

Authors’ Response to Reviewer Comments
Manuscript: con575r1

We thank the reviewers for their time and helpful comments - their feedback substantially improved this paper. Our responses to each comment are provided below (reviewer comments are italicized in bold). The references listed at the end of this response are intended for all reviewers as cited in our responses.

Response to Reviewer 1...............p. X
Response to Reviewer 2...............p. Y
Response to Reviewer 3...............p. Z

Response to Reviewer 1
Comment 1 Text
Response: Response here to include any required evidence.

Comment 2 Text
Response: Response here.

Response to Reviewer 2
Comment 1 Text
Response: Response here to include any required evidence such as tables, figures, additional results, etc.

Comment 2 Text
Response: Response here.

References
Reference list (if needed) for anything in this Response Document that is solely for the reviewers & the editor. It is not just the references from the paper.

  • 1
    Absolutely right. This is what I do as well -- for mostly journals. But, for the conference, the portal provides a text area in which I have to submit the "Author Feedback". In this case, only format I can see is that "Comment - Response" "Comment - Response" ... – Coder Aug 31 '18 at 17:24
  • I recommend following the spirit of the approach and modifying to fit the situation (required text box). Based on time, it makes sense to prioritize the "weak reject" comments and address their concerns. I feel I'm not saying anything you didn't already know. – SecretAgentMan Aug 31 '18 at 17:28
  • I agree. The format recommended by SecretAgentMan is the best way to show that you've carefully considered all comments and you've either made the requested changes or you have a good reason why you haven't. You can adjust this format for situations other than a standard peer-reviewed journal, as SAM suggests. I used this strategy to get a book published at a top-tier press when it had been rejected by every other top-tier press and failed two rounds of reviews at the final press. Thoroughness, persuasive writing, and the ability to handle contradictory reviews are the keys. – Eggy Sep 1 '18 at 21:49
5

I assume that your rebuttal will go the the committee, not the individual reviewers. If you disagree with anything said by anyone, you can try to correct the record. But presumably your biggest issue is the reject votes, so focus on that.

But be sure to focus only on the content of the review and the reasons given that the reviewers think the paper is deficient. It isn't a contest of wills. You can point out things the reviewers missed, for example. But keep it polite.

It may be that the reviewers themselves won't see your rebuttal and it will be handled by the committee. They may actually be looking for a good reason to accept. Give them that reason.

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