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Year : 2022  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1

Giving and receiving critical appraisal: Lessons learnt

Department of Pediatrics, Lady Hardinge Medical College and Associated Kalawati Saran Children's Hospital, New Delhi, India

Date of Submission30-Jan-2022
Date of Decision31-Jan-2022
Date of Acceptance01-Feb-2022
Date of Web Publication25-Feb-2022

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Sharmila Banerjee Mukherjee
Department of Pediatrics, Lady Hardinge Medical College and Associated Kalawati Saran Children's Hospital, Bangla Sahib Marg, New Delhi - 110 001
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ipcares.ipcares_35_22

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How to cite this article:
Mukherjee SB. Giving and receiving critical appraisal: Lessons learnt. Indian Pediatr Case Rep 2022;2:1

How to cite this URL:
Mukherjee SB. Giving and receiving critical appraisal: Lessons learnt. Indian Pediatr Case Rep [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 May 27];2:1. Available from: http://www.ipcares.org/text.asp?2022/2/1/1/338492

With the release of this issue, we celebrate our first birthday. This year, the editorial board and I learnt several invaluable lessons regarding the running of a medical journal. It is an ongoing learning process, that is largely experiential.

Something that is seldom realized is that once an article is submitted for publication, the author, reviewers, editorial board, and editor are all on the same team. We share a common goal; that a well-written, unique, and scientifically meritorious clinical case is published, read and appreciated, and maybe (the icing on the cake), gets cited or triggers further research. However, sometimes during the editorial process, the partnerships sours, and instead of travelling harmoniously together, paths diverge, and players get estranged. This usually occurs when a critical appraisal is given and received. I would like to share with you a recent incident that made me realize a few important “hard truths”.

The first thing we do while finalizing the contents of a forthcoming issue is to take stock of the available articles i.e., accepted or nearly ready (i.e., completed at least two cycles of reviewer-author correction and modification, have only a few creases to be ironed out, and are otherwise potentially “acceptable”). This time, since we were one short, we reviewed articles that were in mid-process (i.e., completed one cycle, has scientific merit, and may be acceptable, provided the authors satisfactorily address the issues raised, and improve the quality). After we shortlisted one, I went through the reviewers' comments, and added my own. Essentially, we highlighted: the lacunae in history, examination, and clinical reasoning; clarifications that were required; changes to be made, and (since timing was critical); explicit instructions outlining how to achieve the desired quality, within the given time frame. To expedite this process, an associate editor (X) was asked to connect with the author directly. On reviewing the letter, X diplomatically told me that it was “a bit rude” and needed to be toned down. I disagreed, believing that desperate times call for drastic measures. I also felt that a personal telephone call would soften the blow. To cut a long story short, though disheartened, the author initially agreed, then got overwhelmed when the premature deadline was crossed and requested withdrawal. Luckily, we could work out things to our mutual benefit, and we now have a very good article.

On introspection, I realized my errors in judgment and have identified strategies to avoid their recurrence. I also offer “my two cents” of advice to authors with manuscripts under review, from the perspective of someone who has also received “brutal” feedbacks, as well as an editor: (i) vent to release all pent up negative emotions, and 'forget about it' for some time (I did not give the author time to process); (ii) Tackle the appraisal only when you have calmed down; (iii) Make a list of all the points that need to be addressed, and to whom; (iv) Check and comply with the journal's system of giving a rebuttal and revision; (v) Answer the easiest ones first; (vi) Thank the reviewers for their intellectual inputs (after all, they invest their personal time without receiving any returns or incentive, and their labor is only acknowledged by the journal) and phrase your response cordially; (vii) If you disagree with any comment, provide recent scientific evidence for support, and politely decline to change; (viii) Do not leave any issue unresolved; (ix) Involve all the authors, and; (x) Show the revised draft and rebuttal to a neutral person experienced in scientific writing for their inputs, before sending it back.

Last but not the least, expect the best, but be prepared for the worst, like a request for further revision. To quote Rumi, the renowned philosopher, “If you are irritated by every rub, how will you be polished?”

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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