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I've received a perplexing peer-review to a submitted paper of mine. The editor asks for major revisions, and sent us two reviews. The first one is serious and raises good points: we'll work, amend the manuscript and send a detailed reply to the editor.

The second reviewer, however, has a 3 (minor) weird questions, and his fourth is:

The authors claimed that “[some sentence taken from the abstract]”. Please give more detailed explanations

where the sentence is actually a summary of our two-page “Results and discussion” section, i.e. the core of the paper.

I'm concerned that the second reviewer has actually not really read the full paper [1], and wonder what the best option to deal with it. I've come with the following ideas:

  1. In the response to the editor, respond to this request by simply saying “This claim is backed up and discussed at length in section IV”.
  2. Do not respond, but write to the editor saying I am concerned about whether the reviewer actually read the paper at all.
  3. Try to do some editing and write an evasive response, like “We have edited the manuscript to improve the clarity of the discussion on this point”.

I want to take option #1, because I think the editor will read between the lines. I'd hate to badmouth the reviewer (option #2), or risk deteriorating the manuscript by silly editing (#3).

What's your take on this? Do you have advice or suggestions on how to act in this situation?


[1] I must say here that I started by doubting the clarity of our paper, first. Trying not to be overly defensive of my work! But after asking a friend a second opinion on it, he agrees with me that the review seems shoddy.

  • Related: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/5865/… – Bravo Nov 17 '13 at 23:09
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    Maybe the reviewer did not read the paper properly. It may be even likely. But never, ever, surmise. You do not know. Option 2 is taboo; it's the job of the editor to come to that conclusion. Option 1 or 3 are fine. – Captain Emacs Apr 17 '16 at 15:53
  • Combine 1 and 3? "This claim is discussed at length in Section 4, we have adjusted the wording in Section 4.1 to make the presentation more clear." – Oleg Lobachev May 9 '18 at 19:45
  • Combine 1 and 3? "This claim is discussed at length in Section 4, we have adjusted the wording in Section 4.1 to make the presentation more clear." – Oleg Lobachev May 9 '18 at 19:45
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In my view:

Option 1 is fine. You are not required to do what a reviewer asks - if you choose not to do so you just need to explain why.

Option 2 is not a good idea. You are required to respond to every comment made by a reviewer, regardless if you agree or disagree.

Option 3 is also fine. This may be the safest bet - I am guessing you could probably even add a single sentence and the reviewer will almost certainly say its fine.

Probably both 1 and 3 are ok and will get you past this reviewer. You can also go for a combined strategy like: "We feel this claim is backed up and discussed at length in section IV. Nevertheless, we have edited the manuscript to improve the clarity of the discussion on this point."

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The first thing to do, which I understand you have done, is to check all comments to see whether or not something is unclear or can be misunderstood. Your experience with the second reviewers matches what I see as an editor, that (very) short reviews often are sub-par, and essentially of very little use (applies to both positive and negative reviews). So this is unfortunately not unique.

What I think you should do is the following. Follow up the first reviewer's comments as carefully as you see fit. When you turn to the comments of the second author, try to treat them seriously as well. If you are lucky, maybe something you fixed in response to reviewer 1 will cover Reviewer 2's comments. If not, you need to try to respond to the comments even if you think they are pointless. Failing to respond, or trying to brush them off (regardless of how much you would like to do so), should be avoided. The example you gave should be possible to counter by simply saying that the abstract is not the place to expand on any discussion, since a detailed discussion is provided in the paper proper. Although this may seem unnecessary, you do not know how the editor will interpret the comments and your reply, so try to be clear and stay neutral.

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