I’ve been dreading this. The paper was out 65 days and the perky little rejection letter from the editor came this morning, reviews attached.
Its ok, these things happen and its just a paper. I’m not really upset about it that much and will turn it over somewhere else. I think some of the reviewer’s comments are kind of odd- ‘So what does XYZ GENE encode’, and , ‘What is its role in the ABC reaction?’- and crap like that makes me wonder if I am just an awful writer and can’t get my point across, or if the reviewer needs to go back to secondary school because obviously their reading ability is an issue. And then, of course- there is the desire by reviewers to say that a study is ‘preliminary’ if they don’t see every possible experiment in a single paper- which is also frustrating (more on this below).
I took a gene that was previously of unknown function, showed it had a remarkable IN VIVO phenotype, figured out what it does in vitro to the bacterium and showed it, showed that the way this locus works in my-favorite-bug (MFB) and the way it works in distantly-related-but-different-bug (DRBD -and the work on this one was a Science paper) are different, and the mutant phenotypes are different, and will now move on to figuring out how this modification allows the bacteria to do this remarkable in vivo thing- if someone will give me some $$ (but this won’t happen without a paper first…).
But- the reviewers believe the study isn’t novel because we already know the function of these genes in distantly-related-but-different-bug (ok, excuse me but I just showed the MFB mutants have a different in vivo phenotype, not to mention that they have a different regulation), and that the study is ‘preliminary’ because:
1. Although I know the function that these genes perform, I haven’t defined the molecular mechanism by which the modification I describe promotes the IN VIVO phenotype (which is about 5 more years worth of work, and requires looking at complex interactions with other bacteria and KO mice – none of which I can AFFORD to do with the tiny amount or startup money that I have, this is in fact the subject of my July submission).
2. I haven’t described every possible phenotype in which these genes could possibly be involved (7 additional assays were suggested, no kidding- and at least 4 of these are extremely unlikely to be the mechanism based on the in vivo phenotype itself, and based on previously published work by other groups).
3. I haven’t analyzed the effect of this modification on the exposure of 6 additional but different loci known to be involved in said in vivo phenotype (great suggestion and I would love to work on that if we can get some $$ and a few thousand more hands- I’m not being sarcastic- this would be a really awesome grant- but it will all be for nothing if I can’t keep my head above water ).
4. AND I don’t know what a second orthologous group of genes ( located far away) are doing or if they are involved in this phenotype (while this is interesting and we are working on it- it is totally irrelevant to the current study).
Frustrating- 1-4 describe several careers worth of work. I am working from a position of very limited resources, from the standpoint of time and money, I work with my hands tied behind my back compared to many.
This brings up a more serious issue for me- which is that (although I may seem like a terminally optimistic person) at moments like these I always wonder WHY I continue to pursue this career- when it means sacrifice in so many other areas of my life. Of course this is something I think about every day – but it is just more acute at moments like this.
Anyway, I’m going to think about the comments, and do a little rebuttal writing (not to be sent out, just so I am working from a place where comments can be incorporated into a revised manuscript)..
OH AND ONE MORE THING I FORGOT TO TELL YOU- The complete review from one of the reviewers was the following: ‘Interesting manuscript but some confusing comments in the results which need clarification. Poorly performed gels and western blots which need to be improved. This manuscript can be shortened considerably with judicious editing’. I’m not kidding, just these three sentences. I’ve got two things to say about this: SHAME ON this reviewer for a completely shoddy and useless review- I don’t care if you are a big important famous person- this is completely unacceptable behavior, and shame on the editor for letting this COMPLETE NONSENSE pass for peer review.