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Facts:

  1. About 18 months ago I submitted a paper claiming the result previously published by Michael is false.

  2. The first referee used details in Michael's paper to defend Michael's points, trying hard to invalid all of my claims.

  3. The editor rejected my paper and suggests a complete rewriting (reject-and-resubmit).

  4. After rewriting, I emailed Michael and Michael never replied.

My opinions:

  1. I think the first referee's report lacks basic skills and his claims are false. A few experts share the same opinions as mine.

  2. I think the first referee is Michael because the first referee is too familiar with every details of Michael's paper.

  3. I guess I need to mention in the Conflicts of Interest those facts that Michael did not reply and the referee was incompetent; but I don't know if I need to write a long rebuttal including every details.

Question: What is my best action here?

Considering the reports are one-year-old, is it the best action for me to write a reply to that first referee's review?

I usually don't want to harshly criticize someone and I believe that saying harsh words will make the editor think that I am not a decent person.

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    When you say "falsified", is that what you really mean (?), or do you mean that the results you presented contradicted, or were contrary to, or different from, the results published by Michael? "Falsified" would suggest that you cheated, for example by inventing completely fictional results. If you actually mean "contradicted", please edit your question. I suspect that there is a language confusion here, because to falsify an hypothesis would mean that your results had contradicted the hypothesis! May 21, 2023 at 9:14
  • @CrimsonDark Is it now clearer?
    – High GPA
    May 21, 2023 at 12:36
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    Since this isn't a direct answer, I'll give it as a comment as a 'possible' cause of action: consider writing a commentary. Some journals welcome it positively. When published, they might ask Michael for 'response'. NB: your commentary still need to be written as if it were a manuscript for review. May 21, 2023 at 16:21

2 Answers 2

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The "conflict of interest"-angle is the wrong one here. Basically, the editor already has all the information you have, and even more: The editor knows that Michael is likely to be predisposed to assume that Michael is right and you are wrong. Moreover, the editor has chosen Referee 1 (whether or not they are Michael) because the editor believes Referee 1 would provide valuable input. You just claiming that Referee 1 is incompetent is only going to make you look rude.

A thorough rebuttal, on the other hand, is definitely appropriate. You want to convince the editor that you are right, so you'll want to address all of Referee 1's counterpoints. Part of that might be in your paper itself (point to those paragraphs in the reponses to the referee comments), part of that will be just in the reponses-to-the-referee-comments. Avoid commenting on the competence of the referee, this is irrelevant to your case.

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  • +1 ... 'A thorough rebuttal, on the other hand, is definitely appropriate' May 21, 2023 at 16:16
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Don't speculate about who the reviewer(s) of your manuscript are. Nothing good can come out of having the knowledge. You don't know if it actually is Michael who reviewed. "Too familiar with every details of Michael's paper" is not conclusive -- it's possible the first reviewer was simply very conscientious and took the time read through Michael's paper in detail. That Michael didn't reply to your email also doesn't mean anything, e.g. a simple explanation is your email went into their spam box.

That said, it's worth pointing out that if your paper claims to falsify Michael's paper, it is natural to ask Michael to review the paper. This is because Michael knows their own work better than everyone else, so they will know if you used their model/theory/etc. correctly.

  • You should include a rebuttal to the review, because if the journal realizes it's a reject-and-resubmit manuscript (any good EMS will flag such papers), then they'll be expecting a rebuttal. Omitting it makes it seem like you didn't take the reviewer seriously.
  • You should not criticize the reviewer. Criticize their comments, not the reviewer, especially since you don't know who the reviewer is.
  • If it comes to it, you can request Michael recuse as a reviewer. It's probable that the EMS will have such an option for you to exclude competitors who might be biased against your paper. However, there's a good chance you'll be asked to explain why the people you name are not suitable, and "I think they reviewed my first manuscript and are incompetent" will not win you any points with the editor.
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    +1 for "Criticize their comments, not the reviewer". May 18, 2023 at 16:35

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