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I got a review from a reputed Elsevier journal. There're three reviewers, one decided recommend acceptation, other recommended a minor revision and the last one recommended a major revision.

Overall, is it a major or minor revision then?

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  • 9
    My philosophy is, regardless of whether it is minor or major, it is still a revision. Some times the hardest comments to address are those from reviewers who recommend 'minor'. Feb 22 '21 at 8:23
  • 3
    What does the e-mail say about the decision? Note that some journals don't have "minor vs. major revision", but just "revision" (which is similar to a major revision because the reviewers will definitely see the revised version again). Feb 22 '21 at 8:26
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    Major and minor revisions are not necessarily meaningfully different decisions. academia.stackexchange.com/questions/55665/… Feb 22 '21 at 10:32
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    You are wiser to assume "major" and act accordingly. Much less chance of a future rejection. But the specifics of the request matter.
    – Buffy
    Feb 22 '21 at 21:14
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    Does it matter? If it doesn't, I find it hard to answer the question.
    – Allure
    Feb 22 '21 at 23:19
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It's up to the editor to make the decision. Their job is to read the reviews and decide if the criticism is substantial enough to justify a major revision.

If the editor is lazy, they might resort to shortcuts, such as: follow the least favorable recommendation, or take the average of all recommendations. But that is a poor practice.

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As far as you are concerned, your work cannot be accepted in current form but may be if you address the comments raised by the reviewers. (A good editor will make this explicit and expand on what they require and what they recommend.)

The question of "major" vs. "minor" is mostly internal (between reviewers and editor) and has two basic functions:

  1. If it is a very selective journal, editors may decide that a major revision is unlikely to be successful within a reasonable timeframe and reject the paper at this stage rather than waste the time of everyone involved on a second round with uncertain outcome -- there are enough excellent papers submitted that can be published with only minor changes.

  2. Related to this, major revisions are more involved and take more time than minor revisions, so the deadline for resubmission will be longer (months instead of weeks).

Whether a revised manuscript will be sent for another round of reviews is the sole decision of the handling editor; while it's virtually guaranteed for a major revision, it may or may not happen for a minor revision based on the specific comments, the responses to them, and how confident the editor feels about evaluating themselves whether the comments have been addressed adequately.

TL;DR: As an author, revision is revision; if you absolutely have to distinguish how it's been logged in the system for some reason, look at when you are asked to submit the revised version at the latest.

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  • There's another function of the "major"/"minor" distinction which is external: a minor revision sends the signal that the paper is very likely to be accepted if all comments are addressed. For a major revision, there is a realistic chance that the paper gets rejected after the revision -- for example, because some questions about the methodology have been answered, and now it's clear that the methodology is not appropriate. Feb 23 '21 at 9:35
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It depends on the reason for the differences.

Often, especially with multi-disciplinary work, one reviewer will not have the knowledge required to assess every aspect of the paper. The editors may pick reviewers from several different specialties so that between them, they can cover the whole work.

In that case, getting one "major revisions" and two "minor revisions" probably means that there was a serious problem, but only one reviewer had experience in the relevant field necessary to recognise that problem. Obviously the editor should then treat the outcome as "major revisions".

But if the work is within a single discipline and all the reviewers have the knowledge necessary to assess the whole work, it's possible that all of the reviewers noticed the same issue but they disagreed on how serious it was, in which case it becomes more of a subjective judgement call for the editor to decide whether Reviewer Two is being too harsh.

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