Getting scholarly-published, part two: Parsing peer review

Continuing on …

 

I got my peer-review comments back in October of 2014, with the excellent news that I had been accepted (“pending revisions”). I had one month to incorporate changes based on the peer recommendations. In fact, the email stated “please make any revisions that YOU feel are appropriate (reviewer opinions often differ)….”

All the peer reviewers for Art Doc are given a few guidelines on the type of feedback to provide. The aforementioned “Is it suitable for this journal?” is one; others include tone and style, whether things should be added or deleted, whether the references are “the most appropriate to support the paper,” whether it fills a gap or provides a fresh take.

 

I’m going to share with you some of my feedback verbatim here; they range from straightforward to in-depth:

1:

Yes, this topic not only looks appropriate, but it fills in a knowledge gap. The article provides a good overview with some new material….

The author presented the topic very well.  At first I felt the topic was a bit over my head, but as I read the article I gained a greater understanding of LODs and the challenges and opportunities they represent….

Yes, the tone, style, and “voice” of the paper are appropriate, even with the few spelling and grammatical errors….

2:

The topic is appropriate for Art Documentation; it is a readable introductory piece on linked open data for art librarians addressing examples and applications in the domain of art librarianship. References are current and appropriate….

In a couple of instances the author shifts from a neutral to a conversational tone (exemplified most often by addressing the reader as “you”), and I think these should be eliminated in favor of a more scholarly voice…..

I think the conclusions are valid, in that we in GLAM institutions need to start pushing harder for more and deeper LOD implementations….

The conclusion ends rather abruptly; some further explanation and tying-up of the concepts would help here. The author does a nice job of laying out and discussing the issues throughout the article; some more summarization would help encourage readers to want to get involved and take action….

3:

The Abstract begins awkwardly. Definitions would have been a useful next section. It would be better for a broad readership to define terms, especially acronyms such as CORS, early on, or in a glossary outside the main narrative….

The Challenges section seems a natural follow-on to Benefits. Why not present Benefits and Challenges in two sections, and incorporate drawbacks under Challenges? …

The author seems comfortable with technical jargon—query formatting, open metadata sets—and has followed developments at private, government, and international organizations. A paper written for an expert audience could skip the definitions and instead focus on details of specific projects exemplary for their work in capturing metrics, training staff/sharing expertise, working with legacy data, developing standards, or other special qualities…

Some sections could be combined, moved, and expanded. It reads like the author is familiar with the topic, but the style is not particularly accessible. The cited references are appropriate, but there are missed opportunities….

The paper complements previous AD articles: Spring 2011 on open access publishing, Fall 2012 on online catalogues raisonnés, and Spring 2014 on open scholarly resources….

(You’ll have to excuse me if I don’t share any early drafts with you guys. Some things are better left unseen, and I am violently appreciative of the peer-reviewers that had to work through my first attempts and still said kind things about it.)

 

So, revision time! Obviously I had to make some decisions:

  1. Keep my terminology section, and add more basic definitions to it? Ask the layout editors for a glossary outside the main text? Skip the definitions entirely and rewrite for an “expert audience?”
  2. Was my style accessible or not? Should I eliminate conversational and move entirely to the third person? If I’m introductory in content, should I stay informal in tone?
  3. Should I make more reference to the previous Art Doc articles listed? Was I missing opportunities for better philosophical connections?

+ other things that I didn’t excerpt (one reviewer said my “case study” wasn’t really in-depth enough to be a case study; another said I should discuss more projects).

Again I debated time-sensitive updates to the text. It’s always possible to write in some assumptions about the future (e.g. the Getty’s fourth LOD vocab release was predicted to go live in April 2015, and I’d be published in May). But I chose to leave out whole LODLAM conference proceedings and much more in-depth LOD scholarship that had occurred in that time, so as not to substantially change what had been summarily approved. Same with incorporating references to Art Doc articles that complemented my own: I decided to stick with my topic, instead of tackling the breadth of open content and essentially turning it into a new article.

This is also where I managed to compound that really fantastic citation error: one reviewer pointed out that some of my in-text citations about the American Art Collaborative case study were pointing to an article that wasn’t in my reference list! Instead of investigating it properly, though, I just changed them. To something even more wrong. Go, me.

 

My post-review revision also neglected to change Canadian spelling to American ones. When Judy Dyki wrote back after the copyediting round she mentioned it, as well as pointing out a few citations that were missing page numbers. Chicago Style is harsh, you guys. I consider myself pretty detail-oriented, but nobody is great at editing their own work.

That was the beginning of January, and in hunting down page numbers for my citations I realized I didn’t, in fact, have a page source for something technical that I had attributed to that group of American Art Collaborative authors! Red flag. I wrote Judy a revised sentence, saying I would keep flipping through my references, but for now we should change it to something that wasn’t blatantly inaccurate.

 

That was the last I heard of that until February, when the U Chicago Press staff sent me a pre-print PDF for proofreading. I printed it out and took a red pen to it — there were a lot of little formatting things (like when the double-quote character appears straight half the time and curly the other half) and some sentences that just sounded weird when I read them in that layout.

In fact, I noticed one block-quote seemed to be totally illegible, as though a whole part of a sentence had been cut out. Looking back into previous versions to find the intact version of that quote is what finally fixed my disastrous citation error — I found the missing article, fixed the quote, and worked through my old drafts to find all the faulty citations.

I wrote back to Judy with my sincerest apologies, a corrected set of citations, the bibliography entry to be added, a copy of the printer’s proof PDF with highlighting and comments, and some more self-abuse. She very graciously cleaned it all up and dealt with the layout people without further interference from me (probably wise).

At that point I signed away my rights to U Chicago Press, and sat back and waited.

 

Part Three, with lessons learned and other tips and tricks, to follow ….

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