Field of Science

Revision, Revision, Revision

I have finally been going through the papers in the Frontiers Special Topic on publication and peer review in which my paper on replication came out. One of the arguments that appears in many of these papers (like this one)* -- and many discussions of the review process, is that when papers are published, they should be published along with the reviews.

My experience with the process -- which I admit is limited -- is that you submit a paper, reviewers raise concerns, and you only get published if you can revise the manuscript so as to address those concerns (which may include new analyses or even new experiments). At that stage, the reviews are a historical document, commenting on a paper that no longer exists. This may be useful to historians of science, but I don't understand how it helps the scientific process (other than, I suppose, transparency is a good thing).

So these proposals only make sense to me if it is assumed that papers are *not* typically revised in any meaningful way based on review. That is, reviews are more like book reviews: comments on a finished product. Of my own published work, three papers were accepted more-or-less as is (and frankly I think the papers would have benefited from more substantial feedback from the reviewers). So there, the reviews are at least referring to a manuscript very similar to the one that appeared in print (though they did ask me to clarify a few things in the text, which I did).

Other papers went through more substantial revision. One remained pretty similar in content, though we added a whole slew of confirmatory analyses that were requested by reviewers. The most recent paper actually changed substantially, and in many ways is a different -- and much better! -- paper than what we originally submitted. Of the three papers currently under review, two of them have new experiments based on reviewer comments, and the other one has an entirely new introduction and general discussion (the reviewers convinced me to re-think what I thought the paper was about). So the reviews would help you figure out which aspects of the paper we (the authors) thought of on our own and which are based on reviewer comments, but even then that's not quite right, since I usually get comments from a number of colleagues before I make the first submission. There are of course reviews from the second round, but that's often just from one or two of the original reviewers, and mostly focuses on whether we addressed their original concerns or not.

So that's my experience, but perhaps my experience is unusual. I've posted a poll (look top right). Let me know what your experience is. Since this may vary by field, feel free to include comments to this post, saying what field you are in.

*To be fair, this author is describing a process that has actually been implemented for a couple Economics journals, so apparently it works to (at least some) people's satisfaction.

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