This review comment is super enlightening:It's so cringeworthy, it's funny. You could substitute "data usage" with pretty much any research topic you feel like, and you have a review that's almost certainly accurate and justifies rejection. Which is what makes it such a wonderful, terrible review.
"I think there is a general problem with the overall goal of this study and area of research. This seems to be making data usage a critical thing people should be paying attention to. People have real issues and I am not at all sure that this one deserves attention. They have real concerns like, are they going to lose their job, where should their children go to college, should they encourage their elderly parents to move into a retirement center."
Without wanting in any way to excuse this reviewer, I do want to say that this review highlights an ever-increasing problem: I believe review decisions are more and more becoming dominated by subjective decisions about what topics are "important". I realize some may say it has ever been thus, and I acknowledge that the importance of the underlying problem has always been a factor in judging a paper. I think the subjective judgment has become more significant in both in systems and in theory over the years for multiple reasons. As the field has expanded there's less of an underlying agreement and common understanding of what's important. Many times the reviewer may not know the area well enough to judge the importance, and there is every-growing potential for area bias: the problems in my area are (more) important. Further, there are far too many papers for the available slots so reasons to reject have to be found. As the above comment suggests, one can always call into question the importance of the problem the paper aims to solve.
But finally, I think, it fits in with an issue that keeps coming up for me: reviewers are too arrogant. If they don't see why the problem is important, then the issue must be with the research or the writing; it couldn't be with their reading or understanding of the problem space. Reviewers will have opinions regarding the importance of the works they read -- no getting around that -- and they should where possible give advice to authors on how to best present their results. But they could often be a bit more judicious in recognizing that they are expressing their opinion and offering advice; they are not, in the end, the final arbiter of a paper's eventual, actual importance.
I don't see subjective decisions in "importance" going away. But I think they could be given a bit more care, both in how they are used in the final decision-making, and in how reviewers express their opinions on "importance" to authors.
If you'll excuse me now, I don't have time to blog further, I have to go plan where my children should go to college and where I'll eventually ship off my aging parents. (Thank goodness I have a tenured position.)