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I recently had my first paper to review. Since it was the first one, I took great care to be as constructive as possible and to formulate correct and accurate questions / suggestions. At that time, I recommended two major changes for the paper and a couple of minor ones (figures, typos, ...).

I just received the revised version of the paper, with the response to reviewer. One of the major changes I recommended was not fully taken into account by the authors. They did provide a very short answer, but it did not convince me. I read the new version of the paper carefully, to see if the content was changed to fit my suggestion, but it was not.

I am wondering what I should do now? Should I resend the same suggestion, pointing out it was ignored by the authors? Or should I let it go and tell the editor all the other changes were done according to my review? How should I tell the author they did not take my suggestion into account without being rude?

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    Is your review anonymous? – Nate Eldredge Mar 22 '13 at 16:19
  • Sorry for the 'answer' but I don't have enough 'credit' to comment this link. I realize it's a different situation but you may find some good information in the answers and comments. – CramerTV Mar 22 '13 at 20:44
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  • @NateEldredge yes the review was anonymous, but I did see the other reviewers comments. – Wiliam Mar 23 '13 at 13:10
  • @F'x, thanks for the link. I did saw it while writing my post and I found some good informations, but I though the situation was a bit different so I though I might add it anyway :) – Wiliam Mar 23 '13 at 13:12
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There are three possibilities:

  • The authors think they have addressed your major comment: in this case, since you think they haven't, either they haven't understood your initial comment, or they believe that another change they have done is enough. It might be your fault (because you didn't explain your comment well enough) or theirs (because they didn't understand it). It's ok to point out that you believe your comment has not been addressed, and explain it in a different way, to avoid any possible confusion.

  • The authors disagree with your major comment, and did not change the paper accordingly: in this case, they should have explained it in the response to reviewers. It's ok to mention that your comment is not addressed, and it's up to the editor to decide whether the authors should comply and change the paper accordingly.

  • The authors did not see your major comment in the original review, or simply forgot to address it. It's ok to mention that your comment is not addressed, and if you believe that it could be addressed quickly (e.g., some references missing), then perhaps it can go as a minor change for the next version, to speed up the process.

In any case, it's ok to mention that your comment has not been addressed. You might not know the exact reason why, so it's always better to assume that it's just a mistake. The responsibility to accept the paper as such is not yours, it's the editor's. You simply mention that you believe something is wrong with the current paper, you explain why you believe it's wrong, and whether you think it should published without changing it.

A typical response in this case could be: "The new version of the paper addresses most of my previous comments, with the exception of XXX. Indeed, it is not clear how the authors address the fact that YYY (another version of XXX) in the new version."

  • Actually, the authors did respond to the comment, but very shortly, and not in a way that convince me (I edited my original question to be more accurate). – Wiliam Mar 23 '13 at 13:22
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It is necessary to keep in mind that your review is likely not the only one, there should at least be a second reviewer. On top of that, thee editor can make suggestions to the author on what must, should or could be changed. I completely agree with the points in the answer of Charles, I also find it strange that you apparently did not receive an explanation to why or how your suggestion was not changed from the authors. It is, however, common that reviewers and authors disagree but what is right and wrong is another question.

What you should do is to reiterate what you think is necessary and if possible support your statement with more arguments. Since it still is up to the editor to make choices and there are also likely other reviewers to consider, you will never have the full picture yourself and you can only provide your view. It is possible the paper will go to publication without your points being met.

In some cases (journals) it might be possible to write a "Letter to the Editor" where one brings up the remaining questions. Such letters will be published along with an open response from the authors. Since you are relatively new to these processes, you could discuss the paper (after it has been published(!), if it is) with colleagues and consider writing such a letter alone or with someone. It is, after all, an open scientific discussion with differences in opinion.

  • Thanks for the advices. I totally agree that I might never have a full picture of the whole publication decision, although I have seen the other reviewers' comments. The question was more related to what was the right way to respond as an single reviewer, without being influenced by the others.. – Wiliam Mar 23 '13 at 13:15
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If I were in your situation, I'd talk to my supervisor before taking action. All of the advice you already got here is quite sound, but it is also a fact of life that people who are new to the review process tend to be more strict than average. I would thus ask someone else in the field whether your suggestion seems reasonable, and if it does, then I would write about it to the editor.

I'm writing this from personal experience - I'm also new to the review process, and I tend to overestimate the importance of the points I'm raising. My own current solution is actually to go easy on the authors once the revised version is in, as a way of balancing this tendency of mine out.

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