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I'm in a situation where my paper is accepted conditionally, thus I need to revise it in some way as stated by the reviewers. While two reviews were encouraging and mostly constructive, the third review is way off from the other reviewers in their judgement and included sources that I "forgot" to cite and should mention.

Yet, there is a problem since the sources listed by the reviewer were published just ONE day AFTER the hand-in deadline of the paper. I was not able to anyhow know about them. I feel in a dilemma right now between acting "independent" as a researcher but also having to follow the comments made by the reviewer to have a positive outcome.

  1. Am I obliged to follow their comments?
  2. Should I react in the "review log" that I need to upload, that the "status quo" on which research performed is not based upon these sources (although they might be relevant), therefore I will ignore the sources named by the reviewer? I feel that I should at least mention it from a moral standpoint.
  3. How should I behave for a positive outcome? I feel the review was written with negative intentions in mind.
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    If those sources are relevant to your paper, they should be cited. If they are not relevant, explain why in the review log. The fact that the sources were not available at the time of submission does not play any role. Try not to let the negative tone of the reviewer lead you to wrong scientific decisions. – wimi Nov 12 at 22:05
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    To the very good answers you got, I recommend you ask some people around. They would be able to give you much better feedback if they can actually read the paper and understand the implications of the papers they want you to cite. – Davidmh Nov 13 at 6:32
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    "not based upon these sources" seems totally irrelevant. If that's your only argument, you might be mistaken. At least in my field (computer science), related work should also cover things that are related even if you don't use them. Say, if problem A might be solved by approach X and Y, paper on X should discuss Y and viceversa, for instance to explain "why bother with Y when X solves the problem well?" – Blaisorblade Nov 13 at 12:12
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    On the contrary - include the new citations, show that these "newer" publications reach the same conclusions - thus supporting your paper - And like suggested - be the bigger person - give credit to the reviser that hinted the newer reports ... – eagle275 Nov 13 at 15:17
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    Get a punching bag, paste a copy of the review to it, and let them know how you feel... :-P – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Nov 13 at 20:51
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Take a very deep breath. The only way to react to a review that you believe to be in bad faith is to act as the bigger person. You can definitely mention that the reviewer disagrees with the other reviewers, but don't say anything about motives to the editor - there is no way that it can benefit you. The editor will have noted a difference in tone themselves and decided what they think about it. If you complain, and the editor has decided the review is valid, you just look defensive and bitter. If they have already decided that the third review is unfair, then you'll make no difference.

If its possible implement the reviewers suggestions, do so unless you think it seriously harms the paper. Whether you think they are fair or not, as long as they don't hurt the paper, do it. This goes double for citing papers if they relevant; 90% of citations in a paper will be read after the work it done.

"How should I behave for a positive outcome?" Open a bottle of champagne, celebrate your paper, be thankful you got through it despite the reviewer and forget about it. There is nothing you can do about this sort of thing. If you really want to do something support movements for open peer review and next time submit to a journal that practices it.

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    Thanks for your comments. I guess "take a deep breath" is what helps the most :). What do you think in particular about the papers that were practically impossible to cite when handing in from a moral standpoint? This feels like cheating to me. – AirUp Nov 12 at 15:15
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    Well, I don't see the problem. If the paper is relevant -- that is, if a reader might find it useful to compare your approach to what that other paper has to say -- then cite it. It doesn't matter to a reader whether that other paper was available at the time when you first submitted yours. Of course you couldn't know about it, but now you do and you have the choice to cite it. It's not uncommon to add references during the revision process of a paper, including to other publications that weren't around during your first submission. – Wolfgang Bangerth Nov 12 at 20:33
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    I guess it helps to see the paper review from a different angle. To be worried that you are being penalized for not citing a paper that you couldn't possibly have at the time makes it sounds like a paper is kind of like an exam that is a mesaure of how good you are as a researcher. But a review is not a measure of your abilities or character. At its best a review should be a process to improve a paper to better benefit the reader. Even at worst, it should be an evaluation of weather the paper is the best representation of the field. – Ian Sudbery Nov 12 at 20:51
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    Where do you get a bottle of campaign? – user21820 Nov 13 at 9:04
  • Assume all criticism is valid unless/until you can prove otherwise. The reviewer may be trying to make the paper as good as possible (in their opinion). Give them the benefit of the doubt, but don't be afraid to debate them if you feel they're wrong. – Cristobol Polychronopolis Nov 13 at 21:15
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It certainly appears as though the reviewer is making an unreasonable demand, yes. Unfortunately, this situation is too common: reviewers as experts, and thus often active participants in the field, have their own conflicts of interest and biases. Since your paper is conditionally accepted, I recommend you let it go.

Try to ignore the reviewer's intentions, but instead objectively evaluate whether you can meet his demands without compromising your paper in terms of quality or ethics. Specifically:

(1) I feel that since your paper is not yet published, assuming the suggested sources are indeed relevant, it is worth mentioning them for the benefit of your readers. In my own field (chemistry), where it is common for related (or identical) studies to come out during the publication process, we often include a note to the effect of: "After submission of this paper, several relevant and independent studies were published (ref. XXX)." This way, you can point the reader to them (which both the reader and authors of those papers will appreciate) and make it clear that your research was done without knowledge of theirs.

(2) Write a note to the editor to explain what happened: that you did not "forget," but are happy to cite those references. If the reviewer's intention is really to make sure your citations are complete, they should be satisfied.

I guarantee that the editor knows what a bad-faith reviewer looks like, and you taking too much effort to point that out will only backfire. It will make you seem petty and dramatic. Instead, you should focus on feeling happy about the publication of your paper! Congratulations!

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    During the publication of this answer, two other much better answers independently appeared :) – richard Nov 12 at 15:25
  • I ll give you credit anyways. Thank you very much. I appreciate your answer – AirUp Nov 12 at 15:26
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If the papers the reviewer is pointing you to actually have impact on your paper, the reviewer is doing you a favor, potentially extending the useful lifetime of your published work.

Read the papers, and incorporate them if it makes sense. If it doesn't, don't, and explain why.If you feel compelled to make the point that you didn't "forget" to include them, but that they were published after your submission, feel free, but it likely won't help or hurt your chances of acceptance (so long as you do it nicely).

The review you got does not seem out of line, or at least out of the ordinary. Your reaction to it seems too dramatic.

1

1) Am I obliged to follow his comments?

No, but ignoring all comments is unlikely to result in an (unconditional) accept.

2) Should I react in the "review log" that I need to upload, that the research performed is not based upon these sources (although they might be relevant), therefore I will ignore the sources named by the reviewer?

I recommend citing (in the paper) at least some of the citations and explaining why they are irrelevant. Other citations you might dismiss in the "review log," which I assume is a private document which will support your revised paper.

3) How should I behave for a positive outcome? I feel the review was written with negative intentions in mind.

Beyond following my suggestions above, explain (in your "review log") what you have done to address certain comments and explain why other comments need not be address, making sure you are polite and not drawn into a unnecessary battle with the reviewer who seems to have "negative intentions."


my paper is accepted conditionally

I'll improve my answer if the OP explains the above more precisely.

  • Thanks for your comment. "my paper is accepted conditionally" means I need to revise it following the statements of the reviewers/the editor. – AirUp Nov 12 at 15:13
  • @CurzonDax Yes, I understand that aspect, but how - in your case - will the decision to accept be reached? – user2768 Nov 12 at 16:20
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What I usually do is take the comments that are more logical and reject the others.... sometimes you find instructive comments and sometimes reviewers comment to comment...but don't be too much affected it's your work after all. Good luck

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