Friday, February 8, 2013

How to acknowledge your peer reviewers

I have recently received reviewers' comments on a manuscript and am now revising it for resubmission. In my field the peer reviewers are usually mentioned in the acknowledgement section of a paper to thank them for their efforts, anonymous or not. Or so I like to think...

In this case, I looked at the relevant section and wondered how to phrase the thanks; don't want to use the same words over and over again. And so I decided to look through the articles in individual issues of three very different journals, chosen simply for residing in my office at the right time, to get some inspiration.

Note that I have not counted thanks for feedback on the manuscript that sounded as if it came from colleagues approached by the authors themselves - this is about the peer review organized by the journals. The results:

Systematic Botany 36(4)
"We thank two anonymous reviewers for/Two anonymous reviewers provided helpful comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript" or similar: 9 (33%)

"We thank the two anonymous reviewers whose comments/suggestions helped improve and clarify this manuscript" or similar: 7 (26%)

Reviewers not acknowledged: 11 (41%)

Plant Biology 14(1)
Thanks for "helpful comments" or similar: 3 (10%)

Thanking reviewers "who/whose comments/whose suggestions helped improve and clarify this manuscript" or similar: 2 (7%)

"An anonymous reviewer is thanked for critically reading the manuscript and suggesting substantial improvements": 1 (3%)

Reviewers not acknowledged: 24 (80%)

(Several articles in this issue did not even have acknowledgement sections!)

Organisms Diversity & Evolution 11(4)
Thanks for "helpful comments" or similar: 1 (17%)

Thanking reviewers "who/whose comments/whose suggestions helped improve and clarify this manuscript" or similar: 2 (33%)

"We sincerely thank two anonymous reviewers": 1 (17%)

Reviewers not acknowledged: 2 (33%)
I must admit I found that a bit sobering. First, many people do not seem to appreciate the work of the reviewers enough to thank them for it. The non-systematists dominating the second journal are particularly likely to take it for granted and appear to think that only funding agencies and colleagues contributing lab equipment need to be mentioned. Second, among those who do acknowledge peer reviewers there is what looks like a crisis of creativity. I like the one with the thanks for critical reading, it stands out as the words of someone who has gone beyond using the simplest possible formula.

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