Two steps forward, one step back... — R Voice

Two steps forward, one step back...

Erin Owens
Erin Owens Member Posts: 30 ✭✭✭

Just needing to share/vent and seek commiseration today! I submitted a paper in October and received a Revise & Resubmit decision in late December. The feedback was generally positive, but one reviewer criticized what they saw as an omission in my data collection. I sat with their comments all through our campus' December break and really thought about it, but I finally decided that I had no justification or excuse: there really was a gap in my data. So this month I've committed to adding the missing data to my dataset and re-doing my analysis. I feel confident that it will make my paper much stronger in the end, but at the same time... ugh!! It's deflating to feel like I had to back up and then climb through all this work again. Have y'all had this sort of experience before, where you had to back up and re-do work to improve it? Did the effort bring you a positive outcome in the end? I'd love to hear your stories for inspiration while I muscle through this!


  • Vivien Kretz
    Vivien Kretz Member Posts: 283 ✭✭✭

    I totally feel for what you went through @Erin Owens . I had tons of situations when I would have my newspaper article ready and then it would get rejected for a banal reason or a completely different version showed up in the paper in the end. All that after I spent HOURS going to events and perfecting my writing. 🤕

    Every academic project always comes with the fear of terrible feedback. Unfortunately, this is the risk you take. And taking that risk of rejection and critique in the first place is such a brave thing to do! You can really be proud of yourself for putting up with that. 🪴

    It really is arduous to rework your entire research and build your foundation anew. However, success is not linear and sometimes the cheese sayings are quite true to life. In order to succeed, we need to fail.

    And if we do not condemn our failures but truly KNOW and BELIEVE that they will lead us to success other than to just hope for that to happen, that is when you re-work your project in the true awareness of that it will lead you to an amazing result. You don't hope anymore, you know.

    You had to take a step back now and maybe one or two steps back might come on your way, but you will walk across the finish line, that's for sure. 🏁🏅

  • Shruti Turner
    Shruti Turner Member Posts: 465 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited January 28

    Firstly, congratulations @Erin Owens on the progress you've made with your paper and your dedication to good research to reflect on the comments with an open mind! I feel if more researchers were like you, we'd be in a very different academic environment.

    That being said, it doesn't mean it feels good when you received difficult feedback on a paper or to feel like you're going "backwards" in your research. My first paper took me 2-ish years to get published, several revisions and many many hours of analysis, re-analysis, drafts and redrafts. Looking back on the experience once my paper was published (and even now a couple of years later) I feel that the process taught me a lot. I won't be making those mistakes again and I have improved my research methods immensely (including learning from the flaws in my data collection, analysis and writing). I feel like the knowledge I have now to get through my paper writing is because of that awful process writing my first one.

    I have so much admiration that you didn't just pull your paper and submit elsewhere. I know people who would have done that for the "easy" publication and moved on. A quote comes to mind from my favourite book series, I don't mean to be flippant at all, but I do find it is fitting here.

    "There will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right." ~ Albus Dumbledore

    I do believe you are choosing the right path, despite its thorns and hurdles. I think there is a lot to be said for research integrity. I also don't believe there is failure where we learn and grow from our mistakes.

  • Praveena Ramanujam
    Praveena Ramanujam Member Posts: 15 ✭✭

    @Erin Owens, this is more common than you know, i.e., it happens to almost all researchers. This happens because our perspectives keep changing, and many a times when looking at the same draft and/or experiments might result in us missing the gaps (or even errors in some cases) as our mind becomes supersaturated. A case in point being the time when we revisit a previous report or manuscript draft after many months, we identify so many gaps, i.e., experiments that need to be performed to fill these gaps. Another thing that can result in such a scenario is the advancements in our field, experiments that were optional 2 years ago are absolutely necessary now. I had a very bad experience in this regard, my lab does not work on flies, but for my project we went for the fly system as we had a collaborator in that field. When I started the fly experiments, overexpression studies for ectopically expressed proteins were totally acceptable in the fly system, but by the time, I was done, overexpression was out and knockdown was in, I had a hard time closing the story as knockdown was not possible.

    That is why a third pair of eyes (who is seeing your data for the first time) is needed.

  • Erin Owens
    Erin Owens Member Posts: 30 ✭✭✭

    @Praveena Ramanujam Great points, thanks for sharing your experience. I'm actually really excited, now that I'm into the revision work. Taking the reviewers advice more than doubles the size of my dataset, but my aggregate findings and conclusions seem to be holding true, so this added data really does make my final argument much stronger.