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A few months ago I reviewed my first paper. The authors submitted a major revision and I am asked to review the paper again. I received a long cover letter where my comments and the comments of two other anonymous reviewers have been answered.

The paper is relatively long (40 pages) so I am trying to avoid unnecessary work. Should I:

  1. Re-review the entire paper as if I saw it the first time,
  2. Just check if all comments have been addressed, or
  3. Just check if my comments have been addressed?

I am afraid that if I just check the comments, it is possible that the authors have made some other changes, or that their changes might have broken the integrity of the paper as a whole. On the other hand if I re-review the entire paper it might be unfair to the authors.

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    Just a quick comment: there may be defensible reasons not to re-review the entire paper, but "unfair to the authors" is not one. You have been asked to review the paper...again. Doing so is completely fair! I would in fact consider the opposite: whether failing to read the entire paper again might somehow be unfair to the authors. – Pete L. Clark Aug 28 '14 at 15:30
  • This sort of dilemma illustrates why it is good for authors to include a detailed list of changes with each revision submitted. – Nate Eldredge Aug 29 '14 at 4:08
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    After "a few months", I usually don't remember enough of the original submission for looking at comments & replies to make sense without the context of the whole paper... – Stephan Kolassa Aug 29 '14 at 6:54
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When a major review has been requested, I think you really do need to go through the whole paper, for exactly the reasons you cite—the changes you've requested may conflict with the changes another reviewer has requested, and therefore the authors may have had to exercise significant discretion on which one to formally include in their revisions. Similarly, there may have been other changes that arose from your comments or those of your fellow reviewers.

Minor reviews require a lower level of commitment, unless the authors have indicated more substantial changes have been made.

9

Anytime you are asked to review a paper, that is what you should do. If the editor asks you to provide feedback on how your own comments have been dealt with, then that is what you do. As aeismail states, the comments from several reviewers have been considered by the authors which means the paper is at least partially new. An example: it is not uncommon that reviewers opinions differ, which means authors have to decide what they believe is their preferred direction forward, following all points proposed by all reviewers may be impossible. As a reviewer you may then need to re-argue your view point and possibly find other ways to make these view points count. There are hence good reasons for making a second thorough review of a paper that has been given a major revision by the editors.

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This is difficult and, to some extent, a matter of opinion. So, my opinion is this: Your job as reviewer is to identify problems and make critical comments that will improve a paper. In the first round, hopefully this is what you did. The editor then looks at these comments to decide whether to offer an opportunity for revision. In many (most?) journals, an offer of revision is a 85%+ chance of the paper eventually being published. So, when the paper comes back to you, it has already received a round of review and has already been deemed nearly ready for publication. You need to check to make sure that your comments and concerns have been adequately address. Particularly with major revisions, you also need to make sure that no significant new errors have been introduced. This can be a lot of work, but that is precisely your job; you put in effort now in hopes that others reviewing your paper given the same level of effort. If a paper addresses your concerns and introduces no new errors, your job is to recommend to the editor to publish the paper (possibly with minimal additional revisions to address new or lingering concerns).

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