Sometimes a paper is rejected but you obtain some useful suggestions or remarks on improving your paper, directly or indirectly.

When you improve your paper per the suggestions to a certain degree with the intention to submit the paper to another journal, how do you acknowledge the good opinions from the anonymous reviewers?

In addition, is this academically necessary?


Many (most?) academic papers include a brief acknowledgment section somewhere (the location is not standard). In this section it is frequent to acknowledge help by the referees. One can equally well acknowledge comments by referees of previous versions of the paper. For the sake of clarity it seems best to mention that one is thanking the referee of the previous version. E.g. if I were refereeing the new version, reading

We are grateful for the help provided by the referee.

is ambiguous: does this refer to a previous referee, or am I being thanked in advance for my help? (That's not so good.) Clearer would be something like

This version of the paper takes into account helpful comments provided by the (or "a") referee of a previous version.

If the paper gets accepted in the second journal, one could change to something like

We are grateful for helpful comments from multiple referees on several versions of the paper.

Is it academically necessary? I'm not sure it's ever strictly necessary to acknowledge an anonymous referee -- it seems to me that a situation in which it's vitally necessary to acknowledge someone is a situation in which an anonymous acknowledgment would be insufficient. (Moreover, the way I have always understood it is that referee comments are "being given" to the authors of the paper.) If you feel that a referee's contributions merit coauthorship, (take a deep breath first; this opens a can of worms) you should discuss that with the editor. However, if you got direct intellectual help from the referee and not just helpful remarks -- i.e., if the referee contributed some part of the intellectual content of the paper -- then I would certainly recommend documenting that rather than assuming the credit for yourself.

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  • Thanks for taking the trouble to write a detailed instructive answer. – Megadeth Mar 24 '15 at 22:43
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    To avoid the issue of which reviewer you thank (current ones in advance, or ones from a previous submission), you can always omit this sentence from the manuscript you submit the second time around and add it after it go accepted and when you're asked to send in the final version. – Wolfgang Bangerth Mar 25 '15 at 2:37
  • @Wolfgang: Sure. For rather generalized thanks this certainly seems simplest. I would say that if you're thanking someone specifically for supplying a correct proof of Lemma 3.5 or something like that, it's safer to leave it in at all times. – Pete L. Clark Mar 25 '15 at 3:01

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