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Paper publication in limbo

  1. Jan 4, 2009 #1
    I have recently had an interesting experience that I would like to get other people's input on.
    In October 2007 I submitted a paper to a reputable journal. In May 2008 I received a rejection email from the editor. I responded by arguing that the reviewer's comment (a single liner for a 50 page paper) was cryptic and indicated to me that the reviewer did not read the paper through. The editor agreed and proposed (his idea) to send the paper to a second reviewer.
    Two months later in July I sent an email asking what's going on and the editor confirmed that the paper was sent to the second reviewer and that he is keeping track of it. He also said that he will let me know as soon as he had any news.
    I waited till November then sent another email. The editor's response was surprising. He simply said that my paper was rejected back in May, completely ignoring all subsequent correspondence, the second reviewer, everything. I have since then sent three polite emails requesting clarification, and including copies of the editors emails to me about the second reviewer. Those emails went completely unanswered.
    Any comments or advice?
    Thanks ...
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 4, 2009 #2
    What is the field and topic for the paper
  4. Jan 4, 2009 #3
    The paper is in Supergravity. Why is that important?
  5. Jan 4, 2009 #4


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    Call the editor and ask for clarification.
  6. Jan 4, 2009 #5


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    I wonder if the editor had trouble finding a second referee willing to review the article and subsequently is falling back on the fact that it got rejected back in May. (It doesn't make sense that he would not be up front about this though.) Also the journals I'm familiar with have a limited period for correspondence and I wonder if you're running into a technical glitch where there was no corresponence on the article for over a standard time period and thus the file is considered closed.

    Also a 50 page paper? Is that common in the journal you're submitting to? Anything that goes beyond 10 pages in my field is exceptionally large. If something like this came into my inbox and there wasn't a very good reason for it to be so large, I would recommend splitting it into smaller papers. Also, since the time I have available to review papers is very limited, I probably wouldn't be so keen to volunteer to go through something like this in the first place.

    That being said, I would agree with Monique that a polite phone call for clarification is probably the most appropriate course of action. Failing that, you may have to find a different journal to submit to.
  7. Jan 4, 2009 #6

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    Is this your first paper? Do you come from a non-traditional background? Is this paper a completely new theory?
  8. Jan 4, 2009 #7
    To answer your questions: I do not think he had trouble because in one of his earlier emails he confirmed that he did send it! As for the correspondence time thing, I was emailing him on his personal email, with a Cc to the official editorial email. As for the size, that was not a problem. This journal accepts such large papers. Most of it is necessary review anyway, at least necessary in my view. But that was never an issue with the editor or the first reviewer.

    I think I will do the polite phone call approach. Thank you for your advice.
  9. Jan 4, 2009 #8
    No this is my sixth paper. It is not a completely new theory or anything non-traditional or unorthodox (I know what you mean). It is quite main stream. Most of the paper is new review and some part of it is new results.
  10. Jan 4, 2009 #9
    Thanks Monique. I think I will do that.
  11. Jan 4, 2009 #10

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    Given that, the phone call might be the best next step. However, you should probably also be thinking about other journals, since this journal is obviously not banging down the door to get your paper in.
  12. Jan 4, 2009 #11


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    This is also the first thing that came to my mind. In my field not even invited review papers get 50 pages. Really, can the review portion not be handled largely by reference?
  13. Jan 11, 2009 #12
    Well, I was careful to send this paper to a journal that does accept such large papers. In any case that cannot be it. What could have stopped the editor from refusing it based on size from the get go?
    I haven't been able to reach the editor even by phone. I think I will just give up on this journal and send to another one. Thanks all for your input.
  14. Jan 12, 2009 #13


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    You may have had the bad luck of encountering two unsympathetic reviewers. After the first very brief and negative response, the editor decided to give the paper another chance. If the second response was also very brief and negative, the editor may have seen it as simply confirming the rejection back in May and also an indication to cut off communication. Time for a new journal, unfortunately without the benefit of constructive criticism.
  15. Jan 12, 2009 #14
    That makes sense. I still think it is not very professional to simply ignore requests for clarification, irrespective of whether or not the paper does deserve publication.
  16. Jan 13, 2009 #15

    Andy Resnick

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    I am sympathetic- I have been through similar situations twice before, and it is extremely frustrating. However, look at the situation from the Editor's point of view- how many papers does that person get *every week* to deal with? How many other authors are complaining about unfair treatment? How much time should the Editor spend on you?

    And the reviewer's point of view- s/he spent their valuable time reading *your* paper, only to have you turn around and complain that the "reviewer did not read the paper through". Why would the reviewer spend any more time on you?
  17. Jan 13, 2009 #16
    Hello and thanks for your comment. About the editor I do agree. Sounds like a mistake has happened and he simply decided not to pursue it. I still think he should have handled it better but ...
    As for the reviewer, I must say that it is not like that. The reviewer's short comment describing what he read was very indicative to the fact that he/she did not read it through. He/she mentioned things that are simply not in the paper, but apparently they just assumed, without reading.
    Oh well, it is my first experience like that, but I suppose, based on your experience, it was inevitable. I am currently considering trying another journal. We'll see. Thanks ...
  18. Jan 22, 2009 #17
    Did you put the paper on the arXiv? If it is an interesting paper and it gets cited a lot (say more than ten times), some journals will publish it, even if the paper is a few years old by that time. I know of a few examples were Phys. Rev. Lett. initially had rejected a paper, only to accept it a few years later (when as a preprint that paper had about ten citations).
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