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Papers accepted for publication without being sent back for revision?

  1. May 3, 2013 #1
    In your experience, how often does it happen that a submitted paper is accepted for publication without being sent back to the author for revision?

    I was speaking with the former editor of a notable journal in my field and he said that during his multi-year tenure he only saw one paper be accepted for publication as-is after the first submission. This particular journal has a few dozen articles published each month.

    Is this typical? What is your experience with this?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 3, 2013 #2
    Never. Well, virtually never. In my experience, even the most esteemed and prolific authors get there papers sent back for revisions at least once, although usually for "token" and superficial changes. I think it's just accepted as "good form" in journal publishing etiquette. I don't think any author expects their article to just be accepted upon first submission. Typically for a non-renown author in a certain discipline, you're looking at 2-3 revisions and anywhere from 4 mo. to a year or more of back and forth until you're article gets accepted. And I do speak from expereince. If your widely published in a field, you typically get one "token" send back revision and your article is published within 3 months of your first submission. Although all these times have shortened recently with online preprints, which can be posted on a journals' website for up to a year before it officially comes out in print and actually gets page numbers attached to it. To be complete, the only time I could think that a paper would be accepted without even a token revision is 1) if it were extremely significant and time-sensive, and/or 2) if it were an extremely short article.

    One great example of such a paper is Watson and Crick's seminal (no pun intended) DNA paper published in 1953. I'm not sure if that was sent back for revision, but I think Watson addressed that in his book, The Double Helix. Does anyone have any more insight on this?

    IDK why you are asking the question to begin with, but I will leave you with one caveat. If you get a solicitation to submit an article to a fancy sounding journal you have never heard of and they accept it without revision, then... (do I really have to go on or can you fill in the blanks?)
  4. May 3, 2013 #3


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    Hi EricVT,

    I've heard a similar comment at a panel discussion a few years ago - I highly suspect from the same person.

    Now that I have some experience reviewing papers I don't doubt that this is the case across most science fields... at least for journals that you don't have to pay to publish in.

    For one, the acceptance rate for the major journals in my (our) field is only around 50-60%. That means that only half of what gets submitted is *eventually* published. I suspect that the percentage of papers that only need a single round of review with minor corrections are much lower than that - probably in the 5-10 % ballpark.

    On top of that the peer-review process can be highly subjective and if you consider the small pool of very good initial submission papers,l I suspect that in many cases where the reviewer can't identify any direct problems with the science he or she is left in a rather awkward position. What if there is something wrong and you've missed it? Will anyone believe that you actually read the work if you don't have anything to say about it? Is it even possible to write something that is so air tight you can't find any problems with it?

    As a result the reviewers, I believe, come back with more subjective comments for improvement to the work - things such as increasing or decreasing the length of certain sections, or rewording, or requests that certain figures get replotted, or that certain tanget subjects be discussed or commented on, etc.

    But this could be field-specific too. I would guess that in some of the large scale sub-atomic groups there is so much internal drafting and re-drafting that by the time a paper is submitted to a journal it's been critically assessed so much that it's nearly impossible to find something objective wrong with it.
  5. May 3, 2013 #4
    Just out of curiosity. I have limited experience with publishing.

    Thanks for the comments.

    And thanks for the insight, Choppy.
  6. May 4, 2013 #5
    thanks very much for your posts! how is it to write papers or patents for a living? I have some wonderful researcher or engineer friends who are editors
    a physicist friend of mine said once that he was an experimentalist it seems because it was perhaps difficult to write theory for a living and he could do all the theory he loved in experimental. what an amazing life to be a theorist or researcher...
    Last edited: May 4, 2013
  7. May 4, 2013 #6

    Ben Niehoff

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    The last paper I submitted was accepted without comment (yes, to a real journal). I'll never know why, I guess. Usually somebody has some minor thing to complain about.

    Granted, it had already been on arXiv for a year, because I forgot I hadn't submitted it yet. Most likely the reviewers were already familiar with it by the time they saw it.
  8. May 4, 2013 #7
    Do you know what he meant by "responsible for theory"?
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