What’s the best (or worst) review you’ve received?

It’s Peer Review Week and we’d like to hear your thoughts

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Can you believe this is the fifth year of Peer Review Week?!

There’s a great post about the history of PRW on the Scholarly Kitchen if you’re keen to learn more about how it started and what it’s grown into. Most years have had a theme, from transparency to diversity, and the topic chosen for 2019 is…

‘Quality in Peer Review’

So we’re asking:

What’s the best (or worst) review you’ve ever received? And why

We’d love to hear from you so please do take the opportunity to share your thoughts and experiences on Peer Review! Simply use the comment box at the bottom of this post to share your answers.

One thing – as with any contribution to the Community, do keep in mind our Community Policy when sharing your comments (basically, be nice and stay on topic).

Got a question? Get in touch with us here.  

Ruth Milne

Community Manager, Springer Nature


Go to the profile of Eleni Routoula
Eleni Routoula over 1 year ago

Such a timely topic, just received the reviewers comments on a review paper I submitted some time ago! I wouldn't say it is the worst review I have ever received, but it is definitely not the best. Summary of the paper: a review paper on a topic which is not often looked at, from a particular angle. Giving an overview of various methods used to tackle the given problem and their challenges, but focusing and elaborating on a particular one. 

My paper got peer-reviewed by 4 reviewers. 2 of them gave some point-by-point corrections, 2 of them were more general, borderline harsh and not very constructive at points. 1 of them kindly requested me to cite 18 (eighteen!) papers (with one author in common...), none of them being fully relevant to the topic of the review. 1 of them said they found some parts of the review boring (without stating how I should jazz them up), 1 of them said the manuscript should be revised for grammar and sentence construction (without giving an example of a "bad" sentence).   

Overall I think that although some of the received comments were fair and pointed at areas I could improve on the paper, some of them could be of higher quality, to avoid the "what do you mean" questions and leave me (and everyone in my shoes) with a feeling of "OK, I know exactly what I have to do to improve my manuscript". I believe that the sandwich method of giving feedback which is usually applied to children/students (stating a good point, followed by a bad point, concluding with another good point) should also be applied when peer-reviewing. Avoiding being bitter, mean or pushing our own agendas, but focusing on being constructive, fair and clear on our points for improvement towards the person asking for feedback, can help towards increasing the quality of reviews and decreasing the mentality of "payback" for every bad review we have had in our lives.  

Go to the profile of Ruth Milne
Ruth Milne over 1 year ago

Thanks for sharing, Eleni. Lucky you, receiving reviews during Peer Review Week! I agree, specific comments should be backed up with examples. As someone with experience of managing the  peer review process, it's always obvious when a reviewer unjustifiably recommends their own papers be added reference list. This kind of stuff is checked, I'm surprised they think they can get away with it. I hope the revisions to your Review is going OK!    

Go to the profile of Eleni Routoula
Eleni Routoula over 1 year ago

Thanks for your answer Ruth! I am actually very surprised myself on how such an irrelevant reference list made it past the editor.... Revisions are going ok, I think I found the best way to answer to the reviewrs comments!

Go to the profile of Ruth Milne
Ruth Milne over 1 year ago

In case you haven't seen it, this is an interesting read: 


Go to the profile of Eleni Routoula
Eleni Routoula over 1 year ago

Very interesting indeed, thank you very much Ruth!

Go to the profile of Klaas Wynne
Klaas Wynne over 1 year ago

I once wrote a manuscript on faster-than-light communication and how this is effectively impossible. The first three sentences of the abstract briefly described claims of faster-than-light propagation of signals. Then it explained the problems and solution presented in the manuscript. 

The manuscript was firmly rejected by a reviewer who shouted (in as far as that is possible in a review): "This type of nonsense needs to be stamped out!!!" and who clearly had not read beyond the first three sentences of the abstract... I was too young and scared to complain to the editor. 

Anyway, it ended up in Opt Commun (doi:10.1016/S0030-4018(02)01638-3), contains a little joke (see quote and reference 60), and is still the paper I'm most proud of.

Go to the profile of Kamil F. Dziubek
Kamil F. Dziubek over 1 year ago

Perhaps the most memorable review I have ever received was the one in which the referee, after demanding more experimental and theoretical data to be included, stated directly: "I cannot recommend the publication of this manuscript in any X journal" (where X stands for one of the leading professional publishing houses). The second reviewer, while critical, was down to earth and provided very helpful insights into the study. Our manuscript was rejected, but we have quickly introduced the corrections suggested by the referee #2 and my colleague, who was the corresponding author, submitted it to another journal of a different publisher, where it was entirely accepted with only very minor tinkering of details.

I am just wondering if the reviewer #1 keeps that kind of attitude with other manuscripts. In my opinion it is the role of Editors to moderate the peer review process and express opinions if the language used by the reviewers can be an issue.

Go to the profile of Ruth Milne
Ruth Milne over 1 year ago

Thanks Kamil. Perhaps a third referee would have useful to the editor in that particular situation... Yes, some referee reports definitely have an interesting choice of words!