February 1, 2017

Peer review at Am Nat

At the American Naturalist, our goal is to help papers develop. We try to give feedback even to papers that aren't a great fit for Am Nat. But we especially try to work with papers that can fit our niche to help them become the best they can be. We appreciate so much the time our reviewers take to be careful and thorough and helpful. Sometimes this aspect gets lost in discussions of peer review, so we're glad when we get positive feedback like the letter below when the author got news of the manuscript's acceptance (posted with permission).

Dear Dr. Winn,

Many thanks - this really is exciting news! ...

If you think it would be appropriate, I'd very much appreciate if you could send on the following note to Dr. Collar and to the two reviewers who commented on this manuscript. I'm always a bit hesitant to be too complimentary towards editors and reviewers during the review process for fear that it will appear that I'm trying to butter them up, but now I really want to express how grateful I am to them, and to the editorial structure at AmNat.

While most of our colleagues responded positively to the topic when we passed an early draft of the manuscript around for "friendly review", we found it difficult to get much advice on what we needed to do in order to improve it. The feedback that we got from the review process was immensely helpful in providing this. In particular, I cannot express how grateful I am for:

(1) the advice on how to address phylogenetic uncertainty that we received from Dr. Collar and from reviewer 2 (both in the reviews and in subsequent emails)

(2) the detailed description of missing links in our citations provided by reviewer 1, which importantly also included examples of papers that we could read in order to fill those gaps


(3) the very careful and specific critiques and suggestions for our modeling methods from reviewer 2, which made it clear that they had invested a lot of effort in going through them

But, I think the most important part of the review process for us was how incredibly encouraging the editors and reviewers were at all stages. Both of us are quite junior in our career trajectories, and while the opportunity for double-blind reviews gave us a bit more courage to "aim high" with this paper, I don't know that we would have considered ourselves capable of completing the suggested revisions without the very kind words that you, Dr. Collar, and the reviewers included at the beginning of each of your comments.

I think that the most genuine complement that I can give is that this manuscript simply wouldn't have been completed in its current state without all of this help and encouragement.

Many thanks again,
Adam Clark