Review Comments:

  • Responding to reviewers’ comments isn’t always easy and it does require some skill and art in how to address the reviewers to increase the chances that the manuscript will be accepted. It is important for authors to remember that most reviewers provide comments in an effort to enhance or clarify a paper's content. Sometimes the "human" response is often to be offended by some of the reviewer's comments and to jump to be defensive and respond emotionally rather than objectively to the comments.
  • The main goal is to get it right after the first revision.
  • When you receive the email with the reviewers’ comments, skim through it quickly the first day and close the email. The comments always appear more negative with a lot of work required to respond on the first couple of times you read them. Take some time to let everything sink in and then plan your rebuttal. Remember this is not personal or any sort of attack on your work. Reviewers have put much thought in the responses also, and the fact that you are given a chance to review and resubmit suggests interest in the work and both the reviewers and the editors are working on improving the manuscript.

General summary/advice

  • If the reviewer suggests a change that is an improvement - just make the change.
  • If the reviewer suggests a change that is not much of an improvement - just make the change.
  • If a reviewer suggests a change that is no improvement at all but does no harm - just make the change.
  • If a reviewer suggests a change that does not fit any of the above - don't make the change, and give the reasons why not. "I do not agree" is not a reason.
  • Start working on the responses on a quiet not busy day, scrutinize the comments and start planning/outlining responses point.
  • Again, we all may feel that we have poured blood and sweat into the manuscript and may be prone to be defensive in replying. Remember, you can disagree as long as you explain and back it up. In the same aspect that you wrote the manuscript, the reviewer also spent the time to write his comments and respect that and show it in your response.
  • Small phrases such ask “We thank the reviewer for his constructive comments … we have responses by …. This has significantly improved our manuscript” …. Even in disagreeing, be very professional and back it up with additional evidence from the literature on new experiments to back up your results and conclusions: a COMPLETE SOLID POLITE rebuttal.
  • Include everything in the rebuttal: SPELL IT OUT: the reviewers and editors may not always have time to go back to the new figures and new manuscript. Include all changes, new results, and discussion points in the rebuttal letter: ONE STOP SHOP for the reviewers and editors to see and make their decision. Another option is to specifically point out we have made a change “ in the discussion section page x line y to line z”.
  • Discuss the comments and your plan of rebuttal early with the co-authors so that experiments are planned right the first time.
  • Mark your calendar with the deadline, for example, if it is a 90-day response deadline mark your calendar at the 30 days, the 60 day week before and the deadline.

Communication with Mentor

Establishing a regular communication strategy between the mentor and mentee is critical for this relationship to work and be productive. Weekly communication is essential to make sure the work is moving along and no setbacks or productivity is plateauing.  Optimally, a one-on-one in-person meeting is ideal for communication. However, this is not always realistically feasible. Make sure you establish a good communication strategy with your mentor:

  • For day to day inquiries, what works best for you and your mentor, emailing? Calling? Text messaging?
  • For the weekly prolonged meeting: skype or any similar application works the best as can share documents, desktop during the meeting to present result    

Writers Block

  • In order to avoid writer’s block make sure you have a strategy for your paper as a whole. Before starting to write each section of the paper make a detailed outline which you can review with your mentor. When you outline your different section, writing the paper to make up one cohesive story becomes easier and less prone to writer’s block.
  • Look back and remember under what conditions in the past have you felt you were most productive in writing and reestablish a similar writing environment.

Additional Laboratory Resources

  • In order to support your hypothesis, additional experiments with techniques not familiar to you might be needed. Doing experiments especially when involving animals or expensive reagents may get pricey. Therefore, it is best to perfect the technique to get the optimal results, that may or may not support your hypothesis, in the most cost-effective way. Being in a research-heavy academic center, look around for personnel or labs that have mastered the specific technique. Remember research is a team activity which benefits from collaboration. Through the collaborators, they can assist to help to perform the experiment and train you to perform the technique for future use.
  •  In case you can not find anyone in your institution that does the technique, look up the literature and find labs who have performed it. Do not be intimidated to reach out by email and ask for help as you will find out the people are more than happy and willing to share their technique and troubleshooting they went through.
  • In addition, the manufacturer can provide assistance and some techniques may be described in detail as a written protocol or a video protocol in many “protocol” journals.

Local Expert

  • Do your research in the institution and department you are interested to work with.
  • Your peers or people who have before you done research are valuable resources to get advise from.
  • Research days, conferences are important to go see as it will give you an idea about the research activities and what might fit with your interests.

Once you find an expert

  • Try to ask around about his track record in mentoring and reach out to a previous mentee.
  • Hopefully, here we can plug in the effort from the grant as in we would have formed an interdepartmental website/ page that has a list of potential mentors, list of mentees they provide an active ongoing research, funding …which the person in this institution can refer to
  • Be prepared when you meet up: Make sure you are familiar with the work recently published by him/her and the current work in the lab.
  • Have a clear idea of what you want to achieve and your goals and verbalize them clearly during the meeting

Returning to Clinical Training

  • Make sure your experimental methods: techniques, dosages… are clearly written down and can be replicated.
  • Have a clear outline of how you envision the current finalized project:
    • Future experiments
    • Expected results, alternative experiments based on alternative results.
    • Plan ahead of time with your mentor to know who will be the next person to continue the project.
    • Even if you return to clinical years, make the time to stay in touch with the lab on a regular basis and discuss with your mentor and the person in charge currently of the project about results and future experiments.
    • Even though during clinical years it may be hard to juggle both tasks simultaneously, but as an aspiring physician-scientist this will be your life so embrace it now during training and stay involved closely with your mentor’s lab; through this program, you can apply for a technician to help carry on your work under your guidance