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I recently got a rejection from an Elsevier journal. What struck me as odd was that each reviewer comment was three sentences each. To me they look clearly summarized, possibly by the editor. This is also suggested by the wording ("[...] from reviewer (sic!) pointy (sic!) of view [...]"). Colleagues argue that this might just be the way some people review papers.

  • Is it common that the editorial office summarizes the reviewer comments?
  • Would I have received more complete feedback in case of a conditional acceptance?
  • How can it be justified that Elsevier doesn't pass on the feedback to the authors? Personally, I review papers ''for the love of science'', not to support a listed corporation.

Additional information: Three reviews/summaries in total, one of them enthusiastically positive.

  • How many reviews did the rejection letter include? The wording you pointed out is not unusual for reviews, it comes from a tradition that shuns the words "me" and "I" in scientific communication. – lighthouse keeper Feb 20 at 15:45
  • @lighthousekeeper 3 reviews, labeled #1, #3, and #5 – OnMyWayOut Feb 20 at 15:47
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Is it common that the editorial office summarizes the reviewer comments?

Yes, in addition to the actual reviewer feedback. It basically never happens that the actual reviewer feedback is hidden from the authors, and I don't see a point for doing so. If that happened to you, it's possible that there is a mistake, and you should ask the editor about that.

Would I have received more complete feedback in case of a conditional acceptance?

Rejection letters are often short, because the reviewers might have particular high-level concerns that make a more detailed assessment of the paper pointless, for example, if the manuscript is either poorly written or out of the scope of the journal. (A good editor would desk-reject such a paper, but that's a different story.)

How can it be justified that Elsevier doesn't pass on the feedback to the authors? Personally, I review papers ''for the love of science'', not to support a listed corporation.

If your assumption is true, I don't see a point for that. However, take into account that the editor is typically not a representative of Elsevier.

  • many thanks for your explanations. three coincidentally extremely short reviews would be rather unlikely, I suppose. I might ask the editor, but I moved on in the meantime, so it would just be out of curiosity. – OnMyWayOut Feb 20 at 15:54
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    "It basically never happens that the actual reviewer feedback is hidden from the authors, and I don't see a point for doing so." I imagine this could happen if the original reviewer feedback was so strongly worded (usually in the negative sense) that the editor didn't want to pass it on in that form. – darij grinberg Feb 20 at 17:52
  • @darijgrinberg one of the reviews was short yet very positive – OnMyWayOut Feb 20 at 19:27
  • @darijgrinberg It's a possibility, but I believe that the sane thing to do for the editor in this case would be to disclose that it's a summary rather than the actual review. – lighthouse keeper Feb 21 at 8:44

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