After the report was sent in, the status of my manuscript in the tracking system of Physical Review Letters indicated a query to referee. What does this mean?

The editor explained further information is needed from the referee. This is basically what query to referee means. But I am wondering what it implies. Is the report good or bad? Does anyone has any experience on this issue, and what is the outcome?


It can mean that there was something problematic about the referee's report. This can indicate that there is some kind of inconsistency between what the referee says in different parts of the report. For example, the referee may have provided a very positive written evaluation, but accidentally clicked the box saying "Reject." If that happens, the editor will naturally ask the referee to clarify what they actually meant.

One other thing it can mean, particularly in connection with a journal like Physical Review Letters, which has selection criteria that require more than just a correct and interesting paper. If a paper is deemed to be, in fact, correct and interesting, there may still be some additional back-and-forth communication between the editor and referee(s) to ascertain whether the work is important enough for that particular journal.

  • Thanks @Buzz! Your answer is so clear and reasonable. Do you know how long the "query to referee" usually takes, or will the editor give another month for the referee to answer those queries?
    – New Kolege
    Dec 11 '18 at 3:51

Converting and expanding a comment by Andreas Blass to an answer to make it more visible:

My first guess was that the query might was:

When will you get this report done?

But there are lots of other possibilities, like:

Did you perhaps accidentally omit the word not on line 57 of your report?

You signed your report with your name. Do you really want to share it with the authors?

Is the paper really that wonderful?

Is the paper really that hopeless?

As the possibilities strongly vary in size and sign, you cannot divine anything meaningful from this. In particular, the experiences of somebody else in a similar situation are unlikely to translate to yours.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.