Monday, January 19, 2009

Nasty referee comments and other publishing stories

My own experience with referee reports has been largely positive -- the best reports have included incisive and helpful suggestions for improving the paper; the worst struck me as being the work of somebody who did not read the paper carefully and presented as decisive objections that were either entirely off the mark or at least very easily answered. None of the reports, though, have been cruel or malicious. But I've heard that referee reports can get downright nasty. Please share your (suitably emended) nasty referee reports here. Any other good stories about publishing (from referees and editors as well as authors, of course) are also welcome.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Not nasty, but maddening. Here's a report I've received recently:

"This is a professional piece of philosophy, with competently laid out theses and arguments. However, it would have limited interest, since it is a critique of a critique."

Thanks for the hard work, ref. The paper I'm responding to was interesting enough to publish, but not so interesting that it's worth finding out if its arguments actually worked. Nice attitude for a journal that does discussion pieces. I thought critiques of critiques were also called defenses. Don't defenses advance the literature?

Anonymous said...

I waited eleven weeks only to receive a one sentence reply about how my paper was not appropriate for the journal because the paper was too limited in scope.

Anonymous said...

I once got a reply that simply stated, "The editors are not interested in this topic at this time."

Chris

John Turri said...

Like Anon 7:41, I'll report something not nasty, but nonetheless frustrating.

I have a paper that argues for a view diametrically opposed to an important thesis defended by a preeminent philosopher. The paper responsibly takes up and refutes in turn every one of the many ways that this preeminent philosopher attempts to defend the important thesis. It also presents general considerations that explain why my view is correct -- but I digress.

A referee rejected the paper because the preeminent philosopher could "just deny" what I say. The referee also reported that s/he thought my view was false because it conflicted with the preeminent philosopher's thesis.

I look forward to the day when I can defend my views by just denying things that conflict with them!

Anonymous said...

I'm really tempted to start reviewing all y'all's comments.

Anonymous said...

I too have had something similar to John's comments. The gist of the report was that the argument presented couldn't be right because if it was, the view under discussion would be wrong.

I think I'll begin using this as a defense of all positions that I accept.

Anonymous said...

I had a paper turned down by a history of philosophy journal: they said it was too historical, and suggested i send it to a journal oriented toward intellectual history (they named the specific journal.) that journal said it was too philosophical, and suggested--by name--i send it to the original journal i had started with.

both liked the paper, oddly enough.

Anonymous said...

From a journal that publishes loads of discussion pieces:

"We have already accepted another (better) version of this paper".

Anonymous said...

If you are tracking your submission status on one of the Kluwer journals, what does it mean when you go from "Reviews completed" to "Editor assigned"? It's been weeks. It's job season. Give me some good news!!!

Anonymous said...

It means the referees have completed their reports and they are in the hands of the editor, who will then render a decision and edit the reports if necessary. It would go through this stage no matter what the outcome, so you shouldn't read anything, positive or negative, into it. If it's been in this mode for weeks, though, I would drop a line to the editor. I sent a polite email to the editor when my paper had been in this mode for about 10 days, and got a decision very shortly thereafter.

cw said...

This happened to a friend. He submitted a paper to journal A, but it was rejected after one reviewer commented that the paper would earn a failing grade in a graduate course. Undaunted, my friend simply put a new stamp on the paper and sent it to journal B, without revision. The paper was accepted. One reviewer for journal B was so impressed by the paper that he asked for permission to use it in one of his courses before it was actually published.