2

I know that journals approach the second round review for a revise-and-resubmit paper differently. Sometimes, new reviewers are assigned. I find this kind of case very unfair to an author. We all know that reviewers can be very subjective, and they may or may not agree with the initial reports. I wonder if it is even ethical for journal editors to invite an author to revise and resubmit according to some comments, at the same time knowing that new reviewers will be assigned and they may not agree with the previous comments.

Or should the second round review be based on the previous comments and the revisions, at least heavily so? Otherwise, it would be more like just another round of review.

What do journal editors usually do in this kind of case?

5
  • Presumably it's sometimes unavoidable - the same reviewers might not always be available within a reasonable time frame. But it could still be fair if the original reviewer comments are available to the 2nd round reviewers and if the editor/meta-reviewer maintains overall control.
    – Felix U
    Mar 2, 2023 at 17:19
  • 3
    Is R&R = Rock & Roll? Mar 2, 2023 at 18:21
  • 1
    @user2705196 chuckle ar 'rock & roll'. I guess OP is referring to revise and resubmit (major revision). Yep, you're right. OP should carry us along, though. Mar 2, 2023 at 20:51
  • 2
    A reviewer may not agree to review a paper again for many reasons. For example, a reviewer may have bit off more than he/she can chew in the first round (i.e., paper is way outside his/her expertise), and decided not to review a paper again in the second round. As a result, an editor may be forced to find a new reviewer. Another reason is conflict of interest, which was made aware after the first round of review. Mar 2, 2023 at 20:54
  • 3
    I think you could also argue the opposite -- that it's fairer to authors to get fresh eyes who review the paper on its current merits, rather than (perhaps) being influenced by what they thought last time.
    – avid
    Mar 2, 2023 at 21:43

4 Answers 4

5

Sorry, but you are thinking of it as a "game" that needs to be "played" on a "level field". Scholarship isn't like that. The goal isn't fairness to authors but the extension of knowledge. And sometimes that is hard to achieve.

If you want to publish a BIG result in some field, then you need to expect that it may (will?) need to be vetted by many (many) people so that obscure errors don't invalidate the result. Even then, it sometimes happens.

There have been a few papers, one at least in the past couple of years, that were held up until there were hundreds (IIRC) of reviewers and a mountain of comments.

Editors should work to assure high quality work. If there is doubt of any kind after a set of reviews then getting new eyes on the problem may be the only way to assure that what is published has real value and helps form the foundation of moving forward.

In mundane cases this probably doesn't need to occur most likely.

2

By R&R, you're referring to revise and resubmit right.

We all know that reviewers can be very subjective, and they may or may not agree with the initial reports.

Reviewers ought not be subjective. Unfortunately, it happens. Sometimes, some are just 'pedantic' regarding methodology and/or methods. Nonetheless, reviewers are not compelled to agree with the initial reports.

I wonder if it is even ethical for journal editors to invite an author to revise and resubmit according to some comments ...

Handling Editors are free to invite new or additional reviewers even during R&R. I've had manuscripts sent my way for review, and I can see that the manuscript is at the second or third review stage. For such, I have the liberty of seeing and deferring to comments from earlier rounds. However, I normally review as if I'm the reviewer of the first instance. When I'm done, I then check earlier comments.
In summary, there's nothing unethical about inviting new reviewers for R&R. Having said that, I know that most handling editors will invite earlier reviewers except where the reviewer had clearly indicated non-willingness to review subsequent resubmission of the manuscript.

Or should the second round review be based on the previous comments and the revisions, at least heavily so? Otherwise, it would be more like just another round of review.

As I indicated, the second (or even third) round need not be based on previous comments. The norm, though, at least in the three disciplines I'm into, is not to keep shifting the goalpost. A reviewer should read through the manuscript thoroughly and comment appropriately. It is out of place for a reviewer to keep raising new 'issues' at each R&R rounds. Where there was an oversight initially, nothing preclude the reviewer from apologising and raising them. Just not the norm.
In any case, the interest should be advancing/contributing to the body of knowledge and ensuring quality articles.

What do journal editors usually do in this kind of case?

Simply put, in my own experience, the unavailability or inability or unwillingness of previous reviewers.

2

As editor, in most cases I'd invite the previous reviewers. Sometimes a previous reviewer is no longer available. In this case I may invite a new reviewer if the case is complex enough that I want a further opinion. In some exceptional cases I may invite a new reviewer anyway. It can happen that I was unhappy with an earlier reviewer for some reason and want to replace them (this may play out in favour of the author because the reason may be that the earlier reviewer was overly negative). It also can happen that the way the authors respond to the earlier reviews raise some new issues and I want to bring in some new expertise because of that. Generally I agree with @Buffy that the ultimate aim is quality, and if a new reviewer with new comments can increase quality, this is ultimately a good thing, although I can see the point of the TO that as author one reacts to the initial reviews, and it can be a bit annoying if new issues are raised.

So I'd say it's rather exceptional but occasionally there are reasons to do this.

2

No standard formula across all journals/publishers; up to editor discretion

The editor could reasonably send the manuscript back to the original reviewers (because they've already read it and can review faster, because they are more likely to be interested, because the author wrote a response specifically addressed to them ...). The editor could also reasonably send the manuscript to new reviewers (to get a fresh perspective, to get a third opinion, because the original reviewers said they don't want to see the manuscript anymore ...).

That said, here's the relevant policy for MDPI, which should be pretty representative of what you might expect to encounter when resubmitting.

enter image description here

(ME stands for managing editor and is one of the more senior roles in the journal)

enter image description here

(Presumably "but unchecked" in (1) means they haven't checked the author's revision before the reject-and-resubmit decision - compare (3) in the second section.)

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .