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Two years ago, when I was doing my master’s degree, I was working on a computational project. My supervisor was well-known in the field and a highly reputed person. We were doing a great job, trying to solve a long-standing problem.

When we made significant progress in our work, we wanted to publish it in a journal that has significant outreach for works related to our problems (We were working on flow acoustics). So we submitted out our article to a journal. The article went into review. Came back after two months. There were two referees. One of them was positive and then came the arrogant reviewer report.

I feel that the authors of the article have no knowledge of how certain computational methods can never reproduce physics.

Authors should try to reproduce the result with more reliable experimental procedures. [cites two articles from author A, B, and C]

Furthermore though the computational method is validated against work of author D, I believe authors should at least try to validate their procedure with works of [cites again different article from author A, C, and B, C, E and X, C]

Authors did not cite relevant literature [mulitple articles from author C]

I recommend publication after major revision.

It is rather obvious that author C is either our reviewer or someone close to our reviewer who is asking to cite irrelevant articles and threatens to reject our work on no scientific basis (our computational methodology was well established, robustly proved, highly cited and widely used). Unfortunately, the journal had no appeal process.

We wrote in our rebuttal to the editor that if author C is one of the reviewers, we would like to be peer-reviewed by a different reviewer.

However, the editor never seemed to care. No care was taken by the journal to provide us a fair review. Is there an efficient way to tackle such arrogant reviewers?

  • 14
    A friend of mine will cite another paper that makes the same point the reviewer wants, but uses a different citation to avoid citing them. – Richard Erickson Dec 1 '17 at 13:17
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    On the merits, regardless of the reviewer's identity, did you think those papers should be cited? If not, did you explain your reasoning to the editor? – Patricia Shanahan Dec 1 '17 at 13:22
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    I've left similar comments in a review but I was not one of the authors in the list of papers given to cite, and there was an author in common for all of them (because their research lab are experts in that area). I wouldn't be so quick to assume the reviewer is one of the authors. – tpg2114 Dec 1 '17 at 14:46
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    "It is rather obvious that author C is our reviewer who is asking for self-citation" Counterpoint: No it isn't. Also, it's not relevant. – Shufflepants Dec 1 '17 at 15:28
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    You seem to be a bit biased. Personally, if I find some author's work very relevant to the topic, then I stress out this in my reviews. I don't have to be that author, but that might be an author whose papers I've read enough to think that these references fit right into the submitted paper. – padawan Dec 1 '17 at 16:02
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Other answers suggest you should try to assume that the reviewer is well-minded and act accordingly. This is definitely the null hypothesis.

But if you - after a good night's sleep - have still the strong impression that the reviewer just does not like your method and wants you use/cite his method, you should think about withdrawing and going to another journal

This does not mean that a major revision is not necessary - but your chances may be higher with a fresh set of reviewers.

  • 13
    Regarding the second paragraph: I don't see the point in withdrawing the paper flat out. This was only one of two reports the paper received. If the OP addresses all the comments that have merit and explains what he has done, there is certainly a chance that the paper will be accepted by the current journal. For that matter, there is a chance that upon submitting to the next journal the OP will get the same referee! – Pete L. Clark Dec 1 '17 at 16:24
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    @PeteL.Clark I just said: If you are reasonably sure that the reviewer is biased, change the journal. I had a similar issue in a grant proposal where the revision was essentially useless - I tried to address all the points the reviewer made but I got a second review in the same hostile languague, parts of it copied word by word from the first one. I just want to say that a fresh start is sometimes better than waiting 6 months for a rejection that is very likely to come. – J. Fabian Meier Dec 1 '17 at 18:13
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From your answer, we can guess that you received a "major revision" decision. In that situation, your job is to modified your manuscript according to the reviewers' comments, not to try to find out who are the reviewers. Taken out of context, the comments you mention do not seem arrogant. Those comments are usual demands from reviewer, but I can't judge, not knowing your work, if they are relevant.

In that context, you deal with those comments like with any other comments:

  1. You accept and make the changes where appropriate.

  2. If the comments are not applicable, you explain why to the editor and let him/her judge.

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    +1 Yes. In particular, a manuscript is rarely ever perfect at the first submission, and simply assuming so is fairly arrogant. Even when a reviewer is flat out wrong, their suggestions should be addressed objectively one by one. – Konrad Rudolph Dec 1 '17 at 15:24
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    The editor presumably does know who the reviewer is, as well as seeing the review and the response. If a reviewer makes a habit of unjustified requests for citation of the reviewer's articles editors are going to find out. – Patricia Shanahan Dec 2 '17 at 14:44
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It is hard to say without knowing the details of your work, but I suggest taking a step back. There are of course arrogant reviewers, but equally it could be that there are good reasons to test your methodology in further contexts. What stood out for me was:

It is rather obvious that author C is our reviewer who is asking for self-citation and threatens to reject our work on no scientific basis (Our computational methodology was well established, robustly proved, highly cited and widely used)

It sounds like your work is empirical, is that correct? In which case your methodology cannot be robustly proven, only supported or disproven. I think that's what the reviewer is getting at; they want to see you try and disprove your work in further contexts. Take the following quote:

Furthermore though the computational method is validated against work of author D, I believe authors should at least try to validate their procedure with works of

You suggest your methodology is well established, but it seems like the reviewer is trying to, again, ask you to test whatever is novel about what you have done in further contexts.

It is challenging to say for sure, especially as we do not know which work the reviewer is citing (nor much about your work). However, I think the so-called arrogant reviewer's review needs a reappraisal.

As for whether they are author C, personally, I have given reviews asking authors to cite numerous works of other authors (not myself) when the paper has made an alarming omission.

  • This! I almost always ask authors explain their paper in the context of some omitted literature that the author may be unaware of. Usually, none of the papers are mine. Almost always these suggestions make the paper better because it increases the impact outside of the author's narrow field. – WetlabStudent Sep 22 '18 at 6:42
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In the short term you need to accommodate the referee but you can always contact the editor-in-chief to voice your displeasure. A longer term solution is not to send to this journal again.

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    If you are wrong about the identity of the reviewer, but mention it in your communication with the editor, you will look like an idiot and your papers will be less likely to be accepted in the future. This sounds like a less diplomatic solution. – Mad Physicist Dec 1 '17 at 17:53
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    An editor will see the reviews, and knows where they are coming from. If a reviewer repeatedly gives unreasonable suggestions for self-citations, this will likely be marked in some kind of reviewer database. – Mark Dec 1 '17 at 19:03

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