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A reviewer asks for additional experiments – what are your options?

 

A reviewer asks for additional experiments – what are your options?

Requests for additional experiments typically fall into one of three categories:

  1. The suggested experiments are fundamental to proving your argument. You cannot accept/reject your null hypothesis without these experiments.
  2. You have provided sufficient proof for your argument; however, additional experiments would add weight to your conclusions.
  3. You have provided ample proof for your argument; the reviewer has suggested additional experiments they think would be interesting to do.
What should you do?
#1 The suggested experiments are fundamental to proving your argument.

Is the reviewer right? Enough said. You should perform the additional experiments.

Is the reviewer half-right? Could you re-write your conclusions to be in line with the thresholds of experimental validity? This could be an option if you do not have the means to conduct additional experiments.

Is the reviewer wrong? Have they simply missed your point? If this is the case, you should accept blame. If the reviewer has misjudged something in your paper, it is likely you have failed to properly present your argument. Revise your manuscript to present your argument more explicitly and politely explain the misunderstanding to the reviewer.

#2 Additional experiments would add weight to your conclusions.

This is a matter of costs versus benefits. More often than not, it is wiser to cooperate with the reviewer and perform the additional experiments. You should assume that the reviewer has the aims and scope of the journal in mind when making such requests.

If you decide that the costs outweigh the benefits, you should present your rebuttal as clearly and politely as possible. Include the reviewer’s comment as a study limitation or as a discussion point in the revised manuscript. If you are concerned that this action could result in rejection, consult the editor before submitting your rebuttal.

#3 The additional experiments would be interesting to do.

Again, this is a cost–benefit issue. If you do not have the means to conduct additional experiments, thank the reviewer for their comments, explaining why you believe their suggestions are outside the scope of your paper. Include their suggestions when discussing directions for future research in the revised manuscript.

If you think the additional experiments would not be informative, or are otherwise flawed, but you do have the time/resources, considering conducting them anyway. If the results are informative but outside the scope of your paper, you could include them as supplementary materials. If they are not informative, you can present the results in your rebuttal.

Acknowledging reviewers

If, after peer review, your paper has been improved, consider acknowledging the reviewer’s contribution.

Is it worth it?

Jumping through hoops for reviewers can be frustrating. However, be advised that your efforts could result in more citations. Empirical evidence suggests that papers that undergo multiple rounds of peer review are cited more than papers that are accepted quickly [1]. For more information on responding to reviewer comments, see our post Reviewer comments and how to respond.

References

  1. Calcagno V, Demoinet E, Gollner K, Guidi L, Ruths D, de Mazancourt C. Flows of research manuscripts among scientific journals reveal hidden submission patterns. Science. 2012;338(6110):1065–1069. doi: 10.1126/science.1227833

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