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Rejected for publication: What now?

March 19, 2012 Filed under Blog, Featured, Popular, Publishing, Reviewing 

So, your manuscript was rejected? Before you start firebombing the editor’s place of work and writing screeds on your blog, consider the following.

Put yourself in the reviewer’s shoes. It may be hard to do so, but it is often the best way to understand what the reviewer is trying to communicate. If the reviewer misunderstands something you wrote, could you write it more clearly and avoid the misunderstanding?

View the reviewer as a representative member of your community. Suppose your manuscript had received three reviews, and one reviewer recommended rejection. It might be tempting or easy to treat that reviewer as a crank, but resist. If you consider the reviewer as a representative of your community, then a third of the readers of your manuscript may arrive at the same conclusion. Are you content to have a third of your potential readers disenchanted with your manuscript? Wouldn’t it make sense to try and address these issues, and thus gain greater credibility once the manuscript is published? If you view the three reviewers each representing a statistically representative sampling of the meteorology community, then you move away from “satisfying the individual reviewer’s comments” to “improving your manuscript to gain greater acceptance by the community”.

How do you tell if the reviewer is biased? Look at the comments. Is the reviewer pushing a certain agenda? Or, is the reviewer asking for concessions that do not pertain to a certain agenda: additional supporting evidence, refuting contradictory hypotheses, improved text, more legible figures? In my experience, most reviewers are not expressing personal bias in reviews. So, try to look more objectively at the reviews.

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3 Responses to “Rejected for publication: What now?”
  1. Excellent recommendations. It’s tough getting rejected, but it happens to the best of us. And it’s an amazing peer review, if the authors can distance themselves from the manuscript for long enough to absorb the comments. Take a deep breath and take it for what it is, a learning opportunity, as hard as that is to do. What a truly thoughtful, pragmatic, and conscientious approach!

  2. Pat Shipman says:

    It depends if you are talking about a scientific publication or a science writing publication. Actually, I’ve had both rejected. (Hmmm…) It is a good idea to distance yourself, detach your ego (but it’s BRILLIANT! I KNOW IT IS!) and try again. And if we are talking about science writing, it is a good idea to do your best to be an “easy edit” — that is, somebody who doesn’t kick and scream but just gets on with the job. That attitude will get you more repeat jobs.

  3. It depends on the subject area. In nutrition, if you can correct for enough confounders to get your data to support low fat, low salt, low fructose, high fiber, you will not run into this problem. If your data shows the value of a low-carbohydrate diet then you will be rejected and you should understand that the reviewer is a member of the community who, should they try to accept your paper, would be visited by the GEDAPO (Geheimdiaetspolizei, secret diet police). And, remember, Galileo got peer review from Cardinal Bellarmine.

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