A manuscript just came back from review:
Reviewer #1 says: interesting and important paper, publish with minor revisions
Reviewer #2 says: interesting and important paper, publish with moderate revisions
Reviewer #3 says: reject! "Table 1 is flawed because it is incomplete and does not follow the conventions for this type of data so I can't believe anything else in this paper."
Reviewer #3's further comments are strange and a bit patronizing. I have never met this particular European gentleman, so I don't know if he tends to write rude, flawed reviews like this or if he has some reason for loathing my manuscript in particular.
The Editor says: You should revise and resubmit and fix your deeply flawed data table, and also please rethink your interpretations because I think the most likely explanation for your data is that there are swarms of tiny purple kangaroos living on the moons of Jupiter.
OK, so I made that last part up, but what the editor really wrote makes just as much sense.
The first thing I did was stare at Table 1 to see what Reviewer #3 was talking about -- had I left something out, screwed up the column headings, or what? I couldn't see anything wrong with it. I downloaded some of Reviewer #3's papers that have similar data tabulated. Our tables are identical! I can see no difference in the table format. Another comment he made is that we didn't do enough analyses, but the numbers in our data table were based on even more analyses than his; this information is clearly provided in the table in the standard format. Bizarre. What was the reviewer thinking? It is also unfortunate that the editor couldn't evaluate this criticism himself. Under normal circumstances, I would just deal with the Reviewer #3 situation in a cover letter to the editor with my resubmission.
But here's the thing: it took a year to get this manuscript back, and the editor's comments suggest that he may be insane. If I'd gotten the ms back quickly with the same reviews, I probably wouldn't have minded so much, but if I send it back, do I wait another year before I hear the decision about it?
So I am trying to decide: resubmit to that same journal or cut my losses in terms of time and send it elsewhere and start over? I am sure the paper would be published eventually in that journal, but I am nevertheless inclined to do the latter. I just sent a revised manuscript to my co-authors to get their opinions.
I should say that I chose the journal, one in which I have not previously published, because it has a wide audience in Europe. It isn't as highly ranked as the one I will send it to now if my co-authors agree, but a lot of my European colleagues publish in that journal and some of them have asked me why North Americans seldom submit papers to this journal. I don't know the general answer to that question, but I know why I am not going to race to send anything to that journal again.
A year is much too long for a review process. I have two others papers in review since last summer, and another paper that has been in press for 3 years. This makes me very hyper, and would be excruciating if I were at an earlier stage of my career.
Editors and reviewers are volunteers, and provide their time and insight as a professional service to the community, so although I am very critical of these particular people, in general I appreciate their efforts.
2 years ago