Edited by Timothy Clark, Mike Wright and David J. Ketchen Jr.
Chapter 7: Squeezing lemons to make fresh lemonade: how to extract useful value from peer reviews
Many years ago, feedback from an editor induced me to formulate a rule that proved very valuable, so valuable that, after some years, I began to call it my Golden Rule. Other authors will find this rule useful. It states: No reviewer is ever wrong! This rule is valuable partly because it makes an assertion that seems patently ludicrous and bizarre. Obviously, any human being, even an editor or reviewer, may err. Sometimes editors or reviewers make comments that appear stupid or they recommend changes that are unethical or methodologically incorrect. Occasionally reviewers seem arrogant, disrespectful and even nasty. Therefore, to declare that reviewers’ comments are never wrong might appear irrational, but this apparent irrationality draws attention to a more fundamental truth: Editors and reviewers are only reporting what they thought when they read your paper and every editor and every reviewer is a potentially useful example from the population of potential readers. Indeed, a reviewer is likely to be a better source of information than a typical reader is in that a reviewer probably reads more carefully than a typical reader does and nearly every reviewer plows through an entire paper instead of giving up in disgust after a few pages. The central purpose of my Golden Rule is to remind me to regard reviewers’ comments not as judgments about the value of my research or the quality of my writing, but as data about potential readers of my paper.
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