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Weathering Critical Reviewer Comments

Posted on July 29, 2013

Natalie L. Rasgon (bio) recommends keeping your emotions in check when reading reviewer comments.


Every peer review process is inherently flawed, and as much as we try to be objective there is a lot of subjectivity which is brought into the review. I think that the most important part of the review process and attention to the comments of the reviewers is summarized in the summary done by the actually federal employee called the study officer who's doing the study section and kind of extracting the most important positives and negatives from reviewers and from the discussion of that proposal.

That said, I think it's very important when reading the reviewers' comments not to get emotionally involved sometimes with the negative tone of the reviewers, because it may or may not be personal, it may or may not be damaging to the spirit of the review, but what is most important is not to get emotionally deranged, so to speak, and feel like, "Oh my God. These are such harsh critiques and there's no way for me to go on."

And I know there are a lot of junior investigators, young investigators, who get very disenchanted and sometimes abandoned their research careers because they were not prepared to tolerate the criticism. And of course, from the studies section standpoint, we always encourage reviewers to be fair, to be objective, and not to bring in anything insulting or inflammatory into their comments.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher at the 2013 Career Development Institute for Psychiatry in Palo Alto, CA.


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