Thursday, February 18, 2010

Not the outcome I was hoping for

It's been a frustrating day. I submitted a paper I'm pretty fond of (it's my myth of the fjb paper) to a journal back on 12.01.2007. (Look right-------------->) Journal responds on 1.01.09 with R&R. I'm sent three referee reports and they are surprisingly encouraging. Resubmit 7.08.09. Receive the final decision today. It's not good. One of the referees has mixed feelings. (To referee (#4?), if you're reading, your comments were very much appreciated. I think I can deal better with the worry you raise in the comments than I did in the paper. You might be right that your way of stating the worry is better than the way it was stated by the people I addressed in my discussion. That's for another time.) Here's what's frustrating. The news came as follows:
"Two referees were consulted. One returned equivocal advice (report copied below), finding merit in the paper, but not giving it a thoroughgoing endorsement. The other did not write a report for the author, but the advice given was negative and, given the identity of the referee, the Editorial Board took the opinion very seriously. The Board think the main thrust of the paper is promising, but in these circumstances we cannot publish."

This paper has been under review in some form or other for a pretty long time. Can't I just get a sentence or two explaining the verdict? This is like the _Blair Witch Project_. Yes, I know things ended badly, but what the hell happened?

I've emailed the editor to ask if there's something he can share that gives me some sense of what the referee's reason(s) were for rejecting. He's been quite helpful so far, but in the off chance that referee #5 is reading, will you please consider dropping me an email (off the record, obviously, I'm not going to say anything about your identity or your reasons for rejecting the paper) so I know what reason or reasons you had for the rejection? I didn't expect a good outcome, but I was hoping that someone would give some explanation.

Update
I think the latest email basically said that I'll never be given any of the reasons the 5th referee had for rejecting. I don't think it's unreasonable to expect an explanation given the length of time I've had to wait for a verdict.

13 comments:

Kevin Timpe said...

Very frustrating, Clayton. I'm sorry that you had this experience. I wish it were equally surprising to me, though.

Clayton said...

I have to admit that I was surprised. The rejection was not surprising. I wouldn't have been surprised by bad reasons for rejecting. (My favorite of all time being, "Author claims X requires truth but truth doesn't entail X!"). I certainly expected some _good_ reasons for rejecting. The no reason we're going to share response is surprising. Why the secrecy? This isn't the military.

Anonymous said...

13 months for the first response and 7 months for the second? Who are these people?

Anonymous said...

It would be better if journals allowed simultaneous submissions. They'd then have more reason to move faster.

Clayton said...

Hey Anon 6:24,

I'd rather not say. I'm more interested in venting some frustration and pleading with the referee with the decisive reason to just tell me the reason. It's hard enough to get through five referees (my guess is that the original three referees weren't brought in to look at the resubmit), and while I appreciate being sent four referee reports, the one that I need to know how to proceed from here is the report that decided the issue.

Daniel said...

"Eli, eli, lama sabachthani?"

Anonymous said...

Indeed.

Chris Tucker said...

That's horrible. I won't be surprised, though, if I have a similar story to tell in several months.

Clayton said...

Chris,
Let's hope that's not so!

Good to see you in Chicago, by the way. Will you be in San Francisco?

Chris Tucker said...

No, I won't be in San Fran. Actually, come to think of it, I've never been to the Pacific.

Quibble said...

I should say that you are entitled to at least a summary of the objections. It seems like bad form to me.

Anonymous said...

Secrecy about the reasons for rejection? Bad like the military...

Secrecy about what journal is behaving this poorly? Leave that problem to others deciding where to submit papers.

Clayton said...

Anon,
I'd like to warn people to stay away from this journal, but I also want not to badmouth the journal or its editors in public. They know that I'm not happy with them, but since I've revealed details of our correspondence without their permission, I feel somewhat obliged to refrain from naming names. I'll say this. If you follow the threads about journals that behave badly, it's a journal that has often been on the list of bad behaving journals. So, if I told you who it was, you wouldn't be surprised. (I was chided for expecting better of them by my former adviser who thought I should have known going into this that the chances were good that something bad would happen.)