A while back, there was a twitter discussion related to Associate Editors (AEs) sending manuscripts back out for review when the changes are pretty minor. One part of the discussion indicated that there’s some variation in interpretation of the “Would you be able to review a revised version of this manuscript?” question. This topic recently came up again in some emails between Brian, Jeremy, and me (and then again on twitter after I mentioned writing a post on it), so I figured it’s worth a quick poll:
(Please answer the poll before reading the rest of the post!)
As an example of the sort of thing that made me think about this, last year I reviewed a manuscript where my review had a total of three comments:
- Asking the authors to better explain how they identified certain individuals
- A wording suggestion, and
- Asking the authors to move something to earlier in the paper
(The other reviewer’s comments were similarly minor.) I submitted my review and, as I always do, checked the “yes” button when asked if I’d be willing to review a revised version of the manuscript. (I’m not really sure what would make me click “no” on that, to be honest.)
When I got a request to review the revision, I agreed. I had forgotten how minor my concerns were, though, and, since I was in a particularly busy stretch right then, didn’t open the file right away, waiting until I had enough time to do a full review. When I got a chance to work on the review, I opened the file and wondered why it had come back to me at all. In my opinion, an associate editor could and should evaluate whether the authors had addressed that level of concern. As an AE, I go through each revised manuscript carefully anyway, and don’t see why we should ask two other people to do that, too. (I should note this is just for minor edits, recognizing that there will be some variation in what is considered minor.)
In cases like the one I just described, I think the AE should be able to evaluate whether the changes the authors made addressed the concerns raised by the reviewer. For manuscripts I handle as an AE, I want to save reviewers’ time for cases where the changes made were more complex and where I feel like it would help to have another opinion (or two).
In the twitter discussion of this, though, some people indicated that people answering “yes” to the “Are you willing to review a revised manuscript?” question (which is a standard part of the review submission process) could be taken as the person saying they really want to see a revised manuscript. That conversation made it clear that some AEs send manuscripts with minor edits back out for review because they don’t want to upset reviewers. And here I thought that sending something with minor revisions back out for review would annoy reviewers by wasting their time!
After realizing there is confusion on this topic, I have now started adding something like “While I could review a revised version of this manuscript if you think that would be useful, I do not need to see a revised version” in my confidential comments to the AE. (Except typing this just made me realized I forgot to do that on the last review I submitted!) Perhaps we could use a second question: “Do you want to review the revised version of this manuscript?” I’m not sure if that would really help (and, as an AE, I certainly wouldn’t view that as binding), but it would at least avoid ambiguity about whether the reviewer really wants to see the manuscript again.
Have you received requests to review papers again that you felt were unnecessary? Or have you not been asked to review a revision and been annoyed about that? If you are an AE, have you had pushback for either sending something back to original reviewers or for not sending it back to them (or, lucky you, both)?