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We have submitted a paper to a peer-reviewed journal. The paper was accepted subject to revision. Reviewer A gave superficial, general comments without any specifics. Reviewer B was slightly more detailed in their comments.

I want to note that our "policy" is not to argue with reviewers but to try to understand their points and address them to the best of our extent with maximum respect and politeness. This means that our rebuttal letter pretty much starts with words of gratitude and then detailed explanations of what was added/changed to address a particular comment.

It took approximately another month of full-time work to address every single comment in full. The rebuttal letter contained detailed explanations along with excerpts from the edited paper of what was added to address the comments. My supervisor, who is an experienced professor and well-mannered gentleman with perfect command of British English made sure our ESL rebuttal letter was respectful, detailed and on point.

One month later we received another round of revisions. Reviewer B was very satisfied and approved the paper for publication. However, Reviewer A was super pissed, their second-round feedback was very chaotic with many typos and strange sentencing that we couldn't quite decipher. They wrote that we ridiculed their comments. However, again, no specifics were given. They demanded another revision without specifying what needs to be redone or paid extra attention to. Just, do another revision! Of what though?

This is not my first paper and I'm confident we did not in any way ridicule or show any neglect. However, here we are, not knowing how to deal with this petty tyrant.

I would appreciate your help! I'm getting really depressed as I'm wholeheartedly invested in this project.

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    What does the editor think?
    – Bryan Krause
    Jul 8 at 3:41
  • Hi Bryan. Thank you for your timely reply. I did not talk with an editor. Do you think I should talk with them?
    – MonteNero
    Jul 8 at 3:44

1 Answer 1

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This is a case where I think you can benefit from the editor's privilege of judgment.

First, let this sit a little. Read the odd review in an unemotional state, with a mindset that is as open as possible to interpreting their review from a considerate perspective. Perhaps have some other trusted colleagues compare the review with your paper and look for any possible basis to their criticism, however unartfully delivered.

If after all this patient consideration you still find it as odd and off-putting as your description here, go to the editor. Mention to them the previous (reasonable) comments from this reviewer, what you did to address them, and how surprised you are at the response. I would avoid any accusations or language like you've used here (super pissed, chaotic), just state calmly that you're puzzled/surprised by the review and unsure how to proceed given the other review is positive, and ask the editor for guidance on which comments they feel you should address in the next submission.

Of course, do this in consultation with your coauthors.

Likely if the editor finds the review similarly puzzling (and they probably will if you've exhausted all attempts to find sense in it) they'll proceed based on the original reviews and the new review from B. Of course they could also say you need to somehow appease both reviewers, but I think it's worth a try.

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  • thank you so much Bryan <3
    – MonteNero
    Jul 8 at 6:35
  • @MonteNero side comment, please remember that the review is visible to the editor and that the reviewer are giving suggestion to the editor regarding your paper ... so your response can be done on two levels, both finally arriving at the editor: one to the editor via your response to the reviewer and one directly to the editor. Politely share your concerns with the editor (it is called peer review because it is among peers, even if you find chaotic the last review, note that the reviewer probably does not share your opinion).
    – EarlGrey
    Jul 8 at 10:37
  • @EarlGrey To be clear, in this case, I'd recommend a more informal discussion with the editor rather than addressing them via comments to the reviewer. Usually this would be by emailing the editor directly, rather than through any submission software, etc.
    – Bryan Krause
    Jul 8 at 17:20

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