A letter we’ve all wanted to write

Pour les apprentis chercheurs, et même leurs collègues plus aguerris. Voici une lettre-type de réponse aux reviewers, publiée par le  Bulletin of the Canadian Society for Psychomotor Learning and Sport Psychology (Juin 1991). Chacun y retrouvera ses exaspérations personnelles. A prendre évidemment au troisième degré. C’est simplement drôle.

Dear Sir, Madam, or Other:

Enclosed is our latest version of Ms#85-02-22-RRRR, that is, the re-re-re-revised revision of our paper. Choke on it. We have again rewritten the entire manuscript from start to finish. We even changed the #@*! running head! Hopefully we have suffered enough by now to satisfy even you and your bloodthirsty reviewers.

I shall skip the usual point-by-point description of every single change we made in response to the critiques. After all, it is fairly clear that your reviewers are less interested in details of scientific procedure than in working out their personality problems and frustrations by seeking some kind of demented glee in the sadistic and arbitrary exercise of tyrannical power over hapless authors like ourselves who happen to fall into their clutches. We do understand that, in view of the misanthropic psychopaths you have on your editorial board, you need to keep sending them papers, for if they weren’t reviewing manuscripts they’d probably be out mugging old people or clubbing baby seals to death.

Some of the reviewer’s comments we couldn’t do anything about. For example, if (as reviewer C suggested) several of my recent ancestors were indeed drawn from other species, it is too late to change that. Other suggestions were implemented, however, and the paper has improved and benefited. Thus, you suggested that we shorten the manuscript by 5 pages, and we were able to accomplish this very effectively by altering the margins and printing the paper in a different font with a smaller typeface. We agree with you that the paper is much better this way.

Our perplexing problem was dealing with suggestions 13 through 28 by reviewer B. As you may recall (that is, if you even bother reading the reviews before writing your decision letter), that reviewer listed 16 works that he/she felt we should cite in this paper. These were on a variety of different topics, none of which had any relevance to our work that we could see. Indeed, one was an essay on the Spanish-American War from a high school literary magazine. The only common thread was that all 16 were by the same author, presumably someone whom reviewer B greatly admires and feels should be more widely cited. To handle this, we have modified the Introduction and added, after the review of relevant literature; a subsection entitled « Review of Irrelevant Literature » that discusses these articles and also duly addresses some of the more asinine suggestions in the other reviews. We hope that you will be pleased with this revision and will finally recognize how deserving of publication this work is. If not, then you are an unscrupulous, depraved monster with no shred of human decency. You ought to be in a cage. If you do accept it, however, we wish to thank you for your patience and wisdom throughout this process and to express our appreciation of your scholarly insights. To repay you, we would be happy to review some manuscripts for you; please send us the next manuscript that any of these reviewers submits to your journal.

Assuming you accept this paper, we would also like to add a footnote acknowledging your help with this manuscript and pointing out that we liked the paper much better the way we originally wrote it, but that you held the editorial shotgun to our heads and forced us to chop, reshuffle, restate, hedge, expand, shorten, and in general convert a meaty paper into stir-fried vegetables. We couldn’t or wouldn’t have done it without your input.

Sincerely,

Trying to Publish but Perishing Anyway

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