The pain of revising manuscripts

October 18, 2011, 12:53 pm

Kitten sleeping by a laptop

A well-deserved rest after submitting a manuscript.

My favorite moment of research is right after I hit the “submit” button on a journal’s article submission website. I can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that I don’t have to worry about that project for a few weeks or months. I move the folder with all of the paper’s files out of my “active research” folder on my computer and into my “in review” folder. I can take the whole category off of my to-do list. Sure, having a paper accepted is a lovely moment too, but for some reason that first moment after submission is extra-special to me.

But the manuscripts always come back to you, which is my least favorite moment in research. Whenever I see that email in my inbox with the words “Decision on manuscript…” in the title, my chest tightens and I brace myself for the result. There are generally three possible outcomes for a first-time submission:

  1. flat-out rejection with lots of reviewer comments
  2. revise-and-resubmit decision with major revisions, that will go out for review again when you resubmit
  3. revise-and-resubmit decision with minor revisions, that will probably be accepted by the editor without further review when you resubmit

It might seem like #1 is the worst outcome, but I prefer it to #2. After all, you aren’t required to respond to reviewer comments if you’re going to turn around and send it to a different journal.

I am currently in the midst of a major revision for a paper that I absolutely can’t stand. I’ve been working on it for 5 years. I’ve sent it to 4 journals. Frankly, I’d love to just delete all of the files related to this paper and move on with my life. It doesn’t really have any bearing on any of my other research. But I got a number of small research grants to do this work in the first place, so I feel like it is my responsibility to get it published, no matter how painful.

The 4th journal gave me a revise-and-resubmit decision, with major revisions. And they are quite major. For the first time in my life, I had to request an extension… and the new deadline is coming up in a week. I’m almost done, but every minute I spend working on this stupid manuscript is painful. Hate, hate, hate. The only way I’ve managed to get through it is to break down the tasks associated with the revision into the tiniest possible tasks.

I cannot wait until this manuscript is out of my hands again. Of course, then I have ANOTHER R&R to work on… sigh.

I much prefer the fun of writing brand-new manuscripts. Sure, they’ve got their own problems, but at least no one has criticized your hard work just yet.

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