10 expert tips to help you respond to peer review comments
Most of our funding opportunities offer researchers the chance to respond to comments from peer reviewers. A well-written response can reassure the board or panel you really can do what you propose to do, and increase your chances of getting funded. MRC Peer Review Programme Manager Rachel Prosser asked board and panel members for tips on how best to respond to peer review comments.
1. Be positive
Researchers devote their (unpaid!) time and effort to reviewing proposals – a vital element of the funding process. The tone of your response is important and being open to feedback will reflect positively on your proposal.
2. Appeal to your audience
Think about who will be reading your response. Usually it’s a busy board or panel member, who will also be reading your funding proposal and peer review comments. These are the people who will make the final judgement on your proposal – so make every word count.
3. Keep your cool
Don’t dismiss a reviewer’s comment as uninformed or irrelevant. Instead, provide an explanation to reassure the board or panel that you’ve considered their comment.
4. Avoid blanket statements
If you don’t think you can address a specific comment, it’s better to provide an explanation than ignore it completely.
5. Be honest
Be open and honest about the limitations that may have been highlighted by reviewers.
6. Back up your claims
If you have new data that will allow you to respond to a comment, show the reviewers that you do. If you can fit it in the permitted page limit, include it in your response. Or if the data is published, make sure to provide a link.
7. Be clear
Aim to address comments clearly and individually. Each reviewer has a “Reviewer Reference”. Use this to help the board or panel member navigate to the reviewer comment you’re responding to. Sometimes, there may be a common issue; if so, you can address a set of comments from different reviewers together in one response.
8. Be concise
Only include relevant information that adds value to your argument and clearly addresses the points made by the reviewer. Remember, the panel already has your proposal and peer review comments so avoid duplicating these unnecessarily.
9. Explain it differently
If a concern is raised by more than one reviewer, it may be that your proposal could be presented more clearly. Consider explaining things in a different way in your response. You may wish to group responses if there are several on the same topic; for example, the critique might converge on experimental design or methodology.
10. Last but not least…
Keep to the formatting guidelines – otherwise we’ll return your response (sorry!). Responses should be in A4 format, written in a minimum of 11pt font (Arial or equivalent), with a minimum of 2cm margins and meet the page limit requirements of the relevant research council.