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Revising and responding to referee reports

Addressing referees' comments

Whichever type of revision you have been asked to do, you should consider each referee report carefully and address every comment. As well as making changes to your paper you should also provide a detailed point-by-point reply to each referee. Even if you do not agree with what the referee has said, or if you do not want to make a particular change, you should still provide an explanation in your reply. This will be very useful in helping the referees or editors to make a final decision on your paper.

What files to submit and when

When submitting your revised paper, you should also send in a detailed list of changes and reply to each referee. A copy of your revised paper with the changes highlighted can also be very useful.

Revision deadlines will vary between publishers. The amount of time you will be given to make your revisions will reflect the extent of changes required. It is very important that you keep to your deadline, as your paper may be withdrawn if the journal does not receive a response from you. If you need more time to revise your paper then contact the journal; you may well be granted an extension. Be aware that in some cases, for example, when your paper is to be included in a special issue, the deadlines may be very strict.

What happens next?

If the amendments requested were relatively minor, then your amended paper may be checked by the editors. If more substantial revisions were required then your paper will probably be sent back to one or more of the original referees.

The referees might then be satisfied with your paper and request no further changes, or might suggest some more amendments. The editors may choose to consult a senior referee or make a final decision themselves.

Do...

Stick to the deadline, or ask if you need an extension.

Read each report carefully.

Seek clarification from the journal if anything is unclear and you are not sure of what the journal/referee is asking of you.

Provide an answer to each point even if you are not making changes to the paper.

Be polite. Remember that refereeing is a voluntary task and referees often spend a lot of time and effort writing reports.

Don't...

Ignore any parts of the report - if you are not acting on any of the advice then give reasons why not.

Include personal comments about the referees. You should comment constructively on the content of the report.

Take any criticisms personally; referees can help you improve the scientific quality of your paper.


Acceptance and publication

Producing the proof

Once the editor is happy that the paper is ready for publication, the paper will be accepted and the authors informed. The process by which the paper progresses to publication will vary from journal to journal, but you can typically expect your paper to be edited to meet the format of the journal. At this point you will be contacted and asked to check the proof of your paper and inform the editor of any problems with the edit. Problems which you may encounter include unintentional changes to the meaning of a sentence as the result of editing for English, or inappropriate positioning of a figure in the paper. Most journals have their own policy on colour in print and if you think that a certain image in your paper would benefit from colour you should inform the editor; this may incur a surcharge.

Correcting the proof

Once you approve the proof of your paper, this is the final version that will be published. Once a paper is published online it cannot be amended – any corrections have to be done through a corrigendum or erratum which is a separate publication. Take some time to make sure that the proof which you approve is exactly as you wish it to appear online, as it will be too late to make changes later.

Publication

Once you have sent your corrections, they will be carried out in accordance with the journal style. The paper will then be published online. Print publication may not happen for some time depending on the frequency of the journal (if they produce a print copy at all). You should be informed when your paper is published.

Promotional material

At some point in this process you may be approached by the editor and invited to supply some additional promotional materials. If your paper is identified as being of particularly wide interest then you may even be asked to collaborate on producing a press release to accompany the publication of your paper. This is a great way of getting your paper seen by the wider public and increasing your research profile.

Image inspired by scattering of a particle by a quantum obstacle

Image inspired by scattering of a particle by a quantum obstacle H Schomerus, Y Noat, J Dalibard and C W J Beenakker 2002 EPL (Europhysics Letters) 57 651–657.