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Few questions about getting peer reviewed

  1. May 16, 2009 #1
    Got a first paper ready for biophysics and have few questions on what happens.

    1. If a paper needs modified what kind of feedback do I get from the editor ?

    2. The paper has already been stated by the editor to be suitable for the journal. If it is then rejected do I get feedback on what the reasons were ?

    3. Would I be right in presuming that a rejection means there is no doubt whatsoever amongst editors and reviewers that the central hypothesis could be correct ? That is if there was any inkling that the hypothesis might be true (and presuming if it were true then it would be publication worthy) then I would be allowed the opportunity to modify the paper ?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 16, 2009 #2


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    1) You would normally get feedback on the science from the referee(s), not from the editor. The quality of the feedback can vary quite a lot; from "I don't like it" to page after page of nitpicking.
    If the paper is accepted you will later get a preprint from the editor's office which might contain some questions/comments about the text (if the paper is a bit too long etc), figures etc.

    2) Yes, if the paper is rejected the referee reports should tell you why.

    3) It depends. Papers can be rejected for many different reasons. The most common reason for rejection is simply that the paper is not interesting enough, usually because it does not contain enough new science or the science isn't novel enough for that particular journal (what is "novel enough" varies, you don't get published in Science/Nature simply by doing something NEW; it needs to be new, significant AND of interest to a wide audience).
    There can also be other reasons for rejecting a paper, it might be the wrong journal (e.g. a very technical paper sent to a journal aimed at a wider audience), the work is too similar to work previously published by others (or by yourself, this is the first thing that a referee will check) etc.

    Finally, a paper might also be rejected because it is simply isn't well written. Don't expect editors and referees to have a lot of patience, if the paper does not explain the science in a clear and concise manner if will get rejected; the referee must be able to understand what it is you are trying to say. This is actually quite a common reason for rejection, there are a lot of good scientists out there who are extremely bad at writing up their work.

    Now, if there are MINOR things that are unclear when it comes to the science these will be stated in the report and you will usually get the opportunity to modify the paper (it is up to the editor) and re-submit it. Referees can also recommend major revisions to the text (e.g "explain X better", "give more details about procedure Y"), but don't expect them to recommend major revisions to the science (they would just reject the paper).

    Hence, getting paper rejected does not necessarily mean that there is anything wrong with your hypothesis. But again, read the referee report.
    Last edited: May 16, 2009
  4. May 17, 2009 #3

    Thanks, that clears everything up and more !!

    I have been told my communication can get disjointed so my co-author arranged trial peer reviews with his colleagues. I also arranged a trial review with the editor of a journal, even though i am not submitting to that journal. (long story) He found what he thought were a couple of fundamental flaws to the central investigations, and said he would have rejected it in its current form.

    These fundamental flaws turned out to be miscommunications rather than major problems and were easily dealt with in half a day. I was asking myself, why did the referee consider they could not be dealt with. He could have easily suggested what the solutions might be, so why not do so ? In light of his objections the subsequent investigation improved the paper.

    Basically what i got the impression that happens is that the reviewer expects the paper to unravel problems in a smooth and clear manner. They themselves do not want to extend themselves into the problem solving process even if they can.
  5. May 17, 2009 #4

    Vanadium 50

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    That's exactly right. That's not their job: that's the author's job.
  6. May 17, 2009 #5


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    Please note that for highly prestigious journals such as Science and Nature, the rejection letter (and comments) can come from the editors themselves even before a manuscript gets to the referees. Both of these journals weed out the submissions aggressively.

  7. May 19, 2009 #6


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    This is a very good thing to do. It is always helpful to have a fresh pair of eyes read over anything you plan to submit for peer review. When you're very close to the work, sometimes you can assume things and forget to explicitly state them, but a reviewer needs them explicitly stated to understand what you are doing. So, having an extra reader or two can really help catch those things before it "counts" during peer review.
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