In our last installment of this series (in which I try to lend some transparency to the publication process), I had requested (in great detail) further clarification before I revised and resubmitted an article to Development and Change. Yesterday, I received a reply.

DECH-11-094 – Livelihoods as Governmentality: Reframing the Logic of Livelihoods for Development

Dear Edward,

Thank you for your detailed response to the referee reports that were sent to you in connection with your paper.

The editors discussed your e-mail during their editorial board meeting last week, and have asked me to contact you. They found your response to the referee comments generally reasonable, and a good foundation for revising your paper. Assuming that you are still interested in doing so, they invite you to go ahead with the revisions as proposed.

So, this is good news.  But then the editor went an extra step – in other words, she made some editorial suggestions:

I would like to mention a couple of additional points. We ask all authors who submit revised manuscripts to include a list of revisions made. The response that you have sent to us indicates that some of the comments will not be addressed in the revised paper: it is important that your list of revisions also includes a rationalization for what you have NOT done, as well as for the changes that you have made. However, you might also consider whether any of those ‘non-responses’ need to be covered in some way in the revised manuscript itself. For instance, in your point 2 d) (ii) you suggest adding a footnote regarding (the lack of) remittances; it might be helpful to consider something similar for the point above it, on religious activity. And more broadly, rather than dismissing the report of Reader 1 because s/he seems to be asking for a totally different paper, you might consider whether you could reformulate any elements of your paper to ensure that similar criticisms could not be levelled against it by other readers, in the event of it being published. Finally, with regard to the point about precipitation: there is clearly a difference of opinion here, although the referee mentions an IPCC report (as well as other statistics), and you tell us that you are on the IPCC and have access to rain gauge data. Since the issue at stake seems to revolve around widely available quantitative data, presumably it can be resolved through the use of recognized sources and citations?

There is nothing wrong with this at all – it is a clear signal from the editor of the preferred tack to take while editing this piece.  Contrast this with the initial editorial statement I received. Which would you rather operate from?

The editor also acknowledged my concerns regarding one of the reviewers:

For the record I would like to stress that correspondence about the revision process does not imply any kind of commitment to a revised version of the paper. As stated in Friedl’s original e-mail, revised manuscripts are subject to further review and refereeing. In practice, the editors are often selective when it comes to sending revised papers back to referees, but they reserve the right to approach any of the original referees, and/or one or more new referees, as they see fit.

That is as close as an editor is going to come to saying “yeah, we’re not going back to reviewer 1.”

Had I not pushed back and laid out my concerns, I would be operating with the initial very vague guidance.  Now I have a very clear, achievable path to getting this done.  There is no guarantee it will be accepted, of course, but now my odds are greatly improved.

In the interest of transparency, this was my response:

Thank you for getting back to me, and doing so in such a detailed manner.  I greatly appreciate your editorial involvement in the revision process.  I will, of course, submit a cover letter that details all the revisions made in detail, and explain what issues the revisions were intended to address – and I will, of course, explain why I have not chosen to address certain comments.  I take your point with regard to reviewer 1 – in fact, if I look back at my notes on his/her review, I do see one or two things that I could address from that review, and I will try to think about how I might phrase things in the introduction to address the sort of reading I recieved from this reviewer.  I have no problem with footnoting the religion issue, and I will, of course, document my claims about the climate and the rain gauges.  I believe the reviewer was looking at the data for the Sahel, which is rather different than in coastal areas.

[Note: There is no harm in conceding a point to an editor, especially when that point is valid! It also signals to the editor that you are taking their points seriously.]

I fully expected my resubmission to be reviewed, which of course carries with it the risk of rejection or further revisions – though hopefully I will revise the paper in a manner that avoids this outcome.  I of course recognize your editorial right to select whatever reviewers you see fit to assess this revision – I merely wanted to voice my concerns with reviewer 1 for the record.  I appreciate that you and your colleagues do try to be selective about who reviews revisions, and having raised my concerns I am more than happy to proceed through this process with the reviewers you see fit.

[Note: read the last two sentences as me more or less saying “I’m glad you agree that reviewer 1 sucked.”]

Again, my thanks for taking the time to send along detailed comments.  I will get to work on the revision shortly, and hopefully turn it back to you before the end of the month.

Upward and onward, y’all.