Advice When Authors & Journal Editors Do Not Agree on Revising Papers

When You and That Acquisitions Editor Do Not See Eye to Eye
Although the paper into which you invested so much time and care was recently rejected by the journal you thought the best and most prestigious fit for your work, you feel that you dealt with the unpleasant situation well. You moved past the emotional disappointment surprisingly quickly with the recognition that this was a professional rather than a personal matter. You assessed the editor’s comments in relation to your paper and devised a plan of action for resolving the problems that prevented publication. You then communicated your understanding of those problems to the editor in a message that also explained exactly what you intended to revise and how.
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However, you also had to inform the editor that a couple of the criticisms implied or requested revisions that you simply could not make. For example, the peer reviewer’s report indicated that the methodology of your research was unusual and should really reflect more closely the methods used by other researchers in the field. This came as a disappointment – you were hoping for a different kind of acknowledgement of your innovative methodology, after all – but you were sure it would be easy to explain that the innovative nature of your methodology was precisely what enabled new and revealing results. Unfortunately, the brief explanation you initially provided did not do the trick, and the editor is now insisting that the research will need to be redone.

Such an extreme situation is rare, and it may be that the best course of action will be submitting your manuscript to a different journal. However, if you still wish to achieve publication in the same journal, perhaps because you believe that journal is precisely where this new and innovative methodology should be revealed, you will need to argue your case more persuasively. Following the basic principles of scholarly argumentation in brief will likely prove helpful, so explain to the editor exactly what the differences are, why they are important and how you have in fact recommended your new methods in your conclusion section, or something of the sort. It may also prove helpful to elaborate on the innovative elements of your methods at greater length in the paper itself, especially if a lack of explanation may have led to the peer reviewer’s criticism. If you decide on this strategy, inform the editor that you will comment on the new methodology at greater length in the revised paper in order to avoid misunderstanding in the future, and be sure to provide a clear idea of what the new information will be and how it will help resolve the problem.

Remember to be courteous at all times and respectful of the editor’s views and ideas even when you do not share them. If despite your best and most accommodating efforts to explain your research and make it work for the journal the editor still wants you to change your research in unacceptable ways, a different publication venue is the answer, and it is best not to waste any more precious time on a lost cause.

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