After several weeks of holidays it is time to get back to work. Much needs to be organized and worked up before the new term starts by the end of August: manuscript reviews, revising manuscripts, preparing teaching and many other things. And, of course I want to blog much more regularly again.
First of all I will need to revise our Thailand manuscript, which has come back from review. One of the reviewers was positive and did not have too many comments, while the other reviewer commented at length about our age model. He/she did not believe that we chose the best age model to construct our chronology and questioned our approach. Questioning a chronology is quite common, because the whole story of past climatic and environmental changes relies on a good chronology (or time scale). However, I believe our age model and thus our chronology is good, because we use state-of-the-art statistical modelling, but to make the reviewer understand this, we have to find better arguments to counter his/her points. Often, reviewers have good points, because they look at a manuscript with different eyes than the authors, and are able to scrutinize the arguments and how the underlying data set is interpreted. But sometimes reviewers can be very tiresome, especially when they do not seem to understand the data set, or when they are not too familiar with the field area. The only way out is to argue back and explain where and why the reviewer might have misunderstood the work, and hope that the editor will listen to the arguments and accept them.
In parallel I am reviewing a manuscript that had been submitted by researchers to a journal. I had already reviewed this manuscript before, and now I received a revised version, which should have taken my comments into account. Unfortunately the authors did not change very much, but use arguments to convince the editor why they should not follow my advice! The choice I have is to return the manuscript with even more comments or to not bother too much about the whole thing …. I have not made up my mind yet how I should react, but likely I will go for the first option, because I think that it is our responsibility as scientists to assure that work that is published is based on good quality data sets and on trustworthy interpretations. Sometimes, when I read manuscripts and articles, or see published work that I had rejected as reviewer, I ask myself whether the amount of published articles is more important than the quality of the findings.
This fall I will organize a PhD course in Communicating Research, where we will, among others, discuss the preparation of manuscripts, their structure, the writing process and how to deal with reviewer comments and editors. I am sure that I will have interesting discussions with the students!