How to Write a Rejection Letter in Response to a Proposal

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					Reviewing Manuscripts and Proposals:
 Reviewer and Editor Perspectives
An alternate title: How reviewing helps us to write, and vice versa.




Larry Miller and Jim Kuwabara, NRP, WR

              May 17, 2007 – USGS, Menlo Park
Request from Journal or Agency to review-
 Usually includes author(s), title, and possibly an
     abstract
 May provide a link to the manuscript or proposal
 Should give a clear statement of the due date
 Often has a definition of the journal’s “conflict of
     interest” policy
 Should leave you the option to decline gracefully


 You should respond promptly
Things to think about immediately-
 Am I qualified to provide the review?
 Can I do it in the time provided?
 Is there a conflict of interest?
 Are there other qualified reviewers?
 What’s in it for me?

OK- let’s say you accept…
Read the guidelines for reviewers provided by the journal.
For example, http://aslo.org/lo/instructions/reviewers.html
Next- read the thing
             Pitfalls to watch for-
 Is the paper (proposal) original?
 Is the writing coherent?
 Reviews take longer than you’d guess. It may
      help to read several other papers, but the
      work should stand on it’s own
 It’s not your job to re-write the paper
               First impressions-
 Is this journal best suited to publish the work?
 Is the quality of the science high?
 Are the proper scientific methods used?
 Are the data presented in the best possible way?
 Are there any errors in the data or in their
     interpretation?
 Does the manuscript tell a story? Is it interesting?

It’s reasonable to decide by this time if you plan
to recommend rejection or acceptance
Next, prepare a thoughtful review
Think about helpful reviews of your work-
 Prioritize problems
 Can they be resolved by re-writing?
 If no, can you suggest another path to publication?
 If yes, then you should make suggestions

  This will mean more work for you

 A good review is a creative document that advances science. In
 addition to identifying shortcomings, a good review provides guidance
 to the author for improving the work and presentation. Comments in a
 good review are made in a helpful manner, even if the paper is not
 destined for publication; harshly-worded comments reduce the
 effectiveness of a review and diminish the stature of the journal.
       Preparing a review as 2 letters-
1- General comments to the editor:
 Introductory paragraph with title, reference
      number and authors, plus a quick summary of the
      report and its significance.
 Your recommendation to reject or accept, or accept
     with major modification
 Basis for this recommendation

2- Specific comments to the author:

 Introductory statement (optional)
 Specific comments- must be addressed
   Specific comments to authors (cont)-
Go through the manuscript by section
Refer to specific page/line
Yes, you may pick nits. Will it help?


        Common problems include:
  Overreaching the data
  Improper use of statistics
  Random significant figures
  My pet peeve- prepositional phrases
          Considerations by section-
 Does the Abstract tell a complete story?
 Does the Introduction present the problem and
     cite relevant references?
 Are the Methods appropriate and well documented?
 Are the Results organized logically?
 Does the Discussion develop the ideas?
 Figures and Tables should tell the story
 Captions, titles, and labels must be descriptive
 Note reference format inconsistencies or any
     omissions
Finished?

    Review your review
    Anonymity
    Are you willing to see it again?
    For proposals, scrutinize the budget
    Review your comments to editor
    Submit and secure (or destroy) the original


   Let the editor know ASAP if you can’t meet
             your obligation in time.
The Review Process from an Editor’s
Perspective (A view inside the “black
boxes”)        Authors
                           (MS Prep)
                               MS Submittal
                           Editorial
                          Assignments

                                         Reviewer
                AE Rejection
                                        Assignment
                                                         Reviews
                                                         Compiled

                                                        AE
 Conditional Acceptance                            Recommendation
 or Rejection                                         To Editor
                                Decision
                                 Letter       MS Acceptance
                                                              Publication
                                                               Process
Qualification: This is an Editor’s Perspective
(Many others on campus serve on Editorial
Boards)
                            Authors
                           (MS Prep)
                               MS Submittal
                           Editorial
                          Assignments

                                         Reviewer
                AE Rejection
                                        Assignment
                                                         Reviews
                                                         Compiled

                                                        AE
 Conditional Acceptance                            Recommendation
 or Rejection

                                Decision
                                 Letter       MS Acceptance
                                                              Publication
                                                               Process
Scientists on
campus who
currently serve
on Editorial
Boards



Please let me know about
any omissions (x4485 or
kuwabara@usgs.gov) a
revised listing will be
provided in an upcoming
NRP Branch Bulletin
The Review Process from an
Editor’s Perspective

1. Preparation for submission – What role can Editors play
   at this stage?
2. What happens after the manuscript is submitted?
3. The Editorial Office receives the reviews – What then?
4. Suggestions of how to respond to a decision letter?
Editor’s can play a role in manuscript
preparation
  1. After carefully reviewing the instructions to authors for the journal,
     Contact the Editor or Associate Editor if in doubt about whether the
     manuscript is appropriate for the journal (Could save you a couple
     months of lag time and reformatting).
  2. Multitude of sponsoring organizations – For example, AGU Journals
        Earth Interactions
        Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
        Geophysical Research Letters
        Global Biogeochemical Cycles
        International Journal of Geomagnetism and Aeronomy
        Journal of Geophysical Research (Atmospheres)
        Journal of Geophysical Research (Biogeosciences)
        Journal of Geophysical Research (Earth Surface)
        Journal of Geophysical Research (Oceans)
        Journal of Geophysical Research (Planets)
        Journal of Geophysical Research (Solid Earth)
        Journal of Geophysical Research (Space Physics)
        Nonlinear Processes in Geophysics
        Paleoceanography
        Radio Science
        Reviews of Geophysics
        Space Weather
        Tectonics
        Water Resources Research – Personal point of view
Manuscript preparation (continued)

  3. Appropriately develop the format of the paper
       a. Articles - Longer, fully developed analysis and discussion
          of research topic. Can the discussion be condensed into a
          “note format”? (cost and editorial time)
       b. Companion articles – Typically reviewed to stand alone
          although maybe assigned to the same reviewers.
       c. Technical notes – Short (<4 printed pages), description of a
          new method or significant observations that does not
          warrant rapid review. Review process is still typically faster
          than an article.
       d. Rapid communications – Concise description of new and
          important findings that warrant accelerated review and
          publication (justification required).
       e. Opinion articles and comments
Manuscript preparation (continued)
  4. Important points of the submission letter
     a.    How does this manuscript fit into the objectives of the
         manuscript and how does it extend our knowledge base
         (bullet the benefit). For example, if there has been a
         recent publication by the submitting authors on a similar
         topic, the advancement beyond that prior publication must
         be clear, or weeks can be lost in correspondence before
         the review process even begins.
     b. Based on you knowledge of the research interests of the
         Associate Editors (AE), you can suggest that a particular
         AE might be most appropriate to administer the review
         process (scheduling commitments can trump that request).
     c. If given the option, provide recommendations for
         reviewers and briefly explain why they are particularly
         qualified
     d. Make requests for researchers you do not wish to serve as
         reviewers (conflict of research interest)
The Review Process from an
Editor’s Perspective

1. Preparation for submission – What role can Editors play
   at this stage?
2. What happens after the manuscript is submitted?
3. The Editorial Office receives the reviews – What then?
4. Suggestions of how to respond to a decision letter?
What happens after the manuscript is
  submitted? (A view into the “Black Box”)
1. “Black box” circuits vary between journals. This is how
   it generally works.
2. Editor assigns AE to coordinate review process
   (In multi-disciplinary work, it may help to suggest an
   AE.)
3. AE reviews manuscript and:
   a. Recommends rejection outright - Is it reasonable to
       commit the human and material resources for the
       review process?
   b. Reviewers selected (Hands off/ Hands on methods)
4. Authors can check on review status (mindful of prudent
   time scales)
This may be a disappointment, but your
    manuscripts are NOT always
    assigned to an AE who has a
    corresponding research focus

1. There’s only so much subject coverage that a journal’s
   editorial board can provide.

2. Be sure to be clear about the advancements made,
   suggested AE, and suggested reviewers.
A view into the “Black Box” (continued)
What is the Editor or AE trying to do?
  1. By any measure (e.g.,”Impact factor”) to maintain or improve the
     quality of the journal as representative of the sponsoring
     organization (coverage of new research directions)
  2. Screen and identify clear advancements in the field
  3. Try to efficiently use human and material resources in the review
     process.
  4. Provide objective, constructive advice to the authors regarding
     their work (synthesis of evaluations), as clearly and
     specifically as possible.
  5. Complete the service of items 1-3 in a timely fashion.
     NOTE: In interactions with the Editors and AEs, it may be
     prudent to recognize that they typically serve the journals and
     sponsoring organizations without pay.
The Review Process from an
Editor’s Perspective

1. Preparation for submission – What role can Editors play
   at this stage?
2. What happens after the manuscript is submitted?
3. The Editorial Office receives the reviews – What then?
4. Suggestions of how to respond to a decision letter?
The Editorial Office receives the
   reviews – What then?
A. The AE synthesizes the information in terms of consistencies and
   inconsistencies between reviews.
B. Based on the AE appraisal, the reviewers’ comments are prioritized and a
   recommendation to the Editor is prepared
C. The AE might also recommend to the Editor that even after all comments
   are incorporated into the manuscript, that the authors might be better
   served by submitting the revised manuscript to another journal.
D. The Editor sends out a decision letter to the authors based on the
   AE recommendation (sometimes discussions with the AE), reviewer
    comments and his own evaluation.
The Review Process from an
Editor’s Perspective

1. Preparation for submission – What role can Editors play
   at this stage?
2. What happens after the manuscript is submitted?
3. The Editorial Office receives the reviews – What then?
4. Suggestions of how to respond to a decision letter?
Authors receive the decision letter.
   What then?
A. Acceptance or conditional acceptance: Revise manuscript as needed
    1. When resubmitting the revisions, be sure to clearly state how an where
       in the revised manuscript each comment has been incorporated into the
       revision. Tabulated responses (or at least indexed, tracked changes)
       are useful. Response times are much longer if the AE or reviewer has
       to search for the revisions.
    2. If a comment is rejected, be clear (with references) why, after careful
       deliberation, the comment was not incorporated.
Authors receive the decision letter
   (continued)
B. Rejection:
    1. Look over the decision letter and reviewer comments carefully. How
       strong is the rejection? Is there potential for a positive outcome to a
       resubmittal (if in doubt, correspond tactfully with the Editor or AE)?
      Varies with journal (WRR no longer has a reject with encouragement
      to resubmit).
    2. Use the decision letter and comments to improve the manuscript and
       prepare revisions for resubmittal or submission to another journal.
Ideally the review process is
   constructive with Editorial-
   board members serving
   primarily as facilitators
   rather than gatekeepers.

				
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