Thursday, February 24, 2005

Rebuttal Letter, version 2

Dear Editor (and I'm not sure if the Reviewers will see this, hopefully you will just accept it without sending it back out!):

Here is the revised version of my manuscript. I'm sure it's a little better. I'm not sure it's a whole lot better, since the reviewers this time didn't really have that much to contribute. But hey, I'm not complaining, because they weren't that picky, and I just want the paper to get in. At this point, I am so sick of looking at it, I would publish it on a postage stamp if I could list that on my CV and reference it in my next paper.

I want to kiss your ass a little so it will be more likely to get in. If you send this letter back to the reviewers, then I really want to kiss their asses to prevent them from coming up with more petty crap for me to address.

So, thanks. You were sooo thoughtful, your painstaking attention to detail really made all the difference.


I tried to modify the text so that it contains the information the reviewers were apparently lacking, which is to say, I tried to add details without being too condescending. As usual, I have to wonder if these are really somebody's grad students reviewing these papers. Apparently it is really too much to ask that the reviewers actually be peers , that they actually know something about my system, and that, god forbid, they would actually go and LOOK UP A FEW OF THE REFERENCES on their own before they ask why we didn't try this, that, or the other.

Anyway, part of me- the not-so-cautiously optimistic part- is already rubbing its little rodential hands together and thinking with glee that we need to have a BIG PARTY if this paper actually gets published.

Would everyone reading this please cross their fingers for me? And if/when it does get in, we should do a virtual toast at the virtual bar . I like the one that goes "May we be happy, and may our enemies know it." (I might be on virtual crack for thinking that it will actually happen this time, but here's hoping.)

Thanks so much,

Hopefully Published Author-to-be



At 4:44 PM, Blogger BotanicalGirl said...

I know for a fact that one of my fellow grad student friends read and reviewed a paper her PI had been sent to review. Now, she's absolutely brilliant and I'm sure the review was fine. That does not excuse the blatant wrongness of that situation; no matter how good she is, she is definitely not a 'peer' yet. She's not even a postdoc, let alone a PI.

Very best wishes on your paper!

At 5:55 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

It's not a problem of grad students not being smart enough, not by a long shot. On the contrary, they're usually much more up-to-date on the literature, and in general more attuned to the quality of the data.

And I think we get dumber as we get older.

That said, and I'm speaking from experience because I've contributed to reviews both as a grad student and a postdoc, I think it's inappropriate for one big reason: most grad students have never written a paper. Even the ones who have written papers have very little experience dealing with reviews.

Once you've been on the other side a few times- getting the reviews back and having to respond to them- it makes you realize which things matter, and which just don't matter that much.

When I was a grad student, I used to shred every paper that came across my desk, published or otherwise, because I figured if my work wasn't good enough (and as a grad student, you're constantly being told how you could improve), it was only fair to be equally hard on everybody else! And I think as a grad student you think that you should give your all, you are maybe still trying to improve the general quality of science, one crappy paper at a time.

When you get older, you're a little more jaded, you're a little more sympathetic, and you have more perspective. So, you're more likely to pick on the major stuff, and be a little more forgiving of the smaller stuff.

And, you kind of have to hope that being less of a hard-ass to someone else will get you some good karma points down the line!

Conservation of ream, as my friends from Harvey Mudd call it. Or as it's known more commonly, what goes around, comes around.

Of course, I'd like to think that although I offer my advice to authors when I review papers, I make it very clear which things are deal-breakers regarding whether the paper will be suitable for publication, and which are just suggestions.

It's the ambiguity that worries me with PIs, whereas grad students tend to see things in black and white. Everything fades to gray as you get older. Eyesight, intelligence, hair...


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