In research, especially academic research, we place a lot of emphasis on peer reviews. This is generally a good thing, it’s often useful to have someone review our papers and make suggestions for improvement.
We, more often than not, can’t see the flaws in our work. Sometimes we might disagree with reviewers and a case can be made for rejecting certain suggestions.
Well, that’s how it is supposed to work. In reality, what motivates reviewers to write what they write is a bit of an unknown. Rarely do reviewers have any sort of training on reviewing for a journal, so they are given a carte blanche to write a page or two.
Several years ago I was listening to a panel of editors from top journals who basically agreed that reviewers for those journals rejected everything, yes everything! In fact the editors had on occasions to step in to overturn reviewers’ decisions or nothing at all would get published.
Reviewers seem to fall into four camps:
1) The reviewer that is very negative and hasn’t a good thing to say about your paper. Perhaps this reviewer had negative comments from a reviewer and takes on reviewing to get his/her own back on the publishing system.
2) The reviewer that is positive about the paper, finding it interesting but finding just too many minor issues with it for it to be worthy of publishing (at least in this journal anyway).
3) The constructive reviewer who makes many suggestions to improve the paper, in fact so many that it would if done would result in a completely new paper –an impossible task.
4) The reviewer that identifies the four key things that need to be addressed to make the paper publishable.
Sadly, group 4 seems to be in short supply. Given this is the case then researchers not only need to develop a thick skin but need to get better at assessing their own work otherwise they might never resubmit their paper and at worst give up with research altogether.