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How do authors feel when they receive negative peer reviewer comments? An experience from Chinese biomedical researchers

Issue: 42(2) May 2016. Original articles Pages 31 – 35

Kakoli Majumder
Editage Insights, Editage, Cactus Communications, Mumbai, India; kakolim@cactusglobal.com

Abstract

Background: Peer review is at the heart of academic publishing and has long been instrumental in bringing good science to the forefront. Peer reviewer comments provide authors with valuable suggestions to improve their manuscript; thus, even a rejected manuscript with constructive reviewer comments is highly valuable. However, peer reviewer comments can sometimes be negative, rather than constructive, damaging authors’ motivation and confidence levels.
Objective: This study aims to make editors and peer reviewers aware of how negative reviewer comments can affect authors, and suggests ways to ensure that peer review is constructive.
Methods: Through a discussion on DXY, an online community for biomedical researchers in China, authors were asked to share their experiences with negative reviewer comments; 99 participants responded. Separately, similar questions were posted on two other online communities, Academia Stack Exchange and Quora, yielding 11 responses. These responses were analyzed on the basis of their underlying emotion or message.
Results: The authors’ responses indicate that they appreciate receiving constructive reviewer comments and benefit from such comments. However, authors are often demoralized when they receive comments that are superficial, harsh, or overcritical, and do not provide constructive suggestions for improvement.
Conclusion: While it is true that peer review work claims a lot of time and energy from busy scientists, the purpose is lost when reviewer comments are purely negative. If peer reviewers could keep in mind the feelings of authors while drawing up their reports, peer review would become more effective and a more positive experience for authors.

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