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Second try in journal article submissions?

nomadreid

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A physicist I know submitted his article to Physics Review Letters, and the article was rejected. In the rejection letter, PRL sent him the two reviews upon which the judgment was based. OK, the normal reaction would be to do a bit of appropriate revising and try another journal, maybe one without such a high standard. However, this acquaintance has decided to send a rebuttal to the reviews, showing why (he thinks) they are mistaken, in the hopes of having the article reviewed again. I never heard of a physics journal giving "second chances", but my experience is limited. Does anyone know whether he has a snowball's chance in Hades to get more than a one-line form letter back from PRL, politely telling him to give up and go away?
 
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I think that's an okay strategy although all too often the reviewer may feel "you're questioning my judgement" and things can go south from there. However, the reviewer could cite further issues that definitely need to be fixed and maybe even help the author to get it published but I think that will be very rare.

If instead your friend asked for guidance in the guise of some questions about the reviewers review then maybe the reviewer would reconsider but again that is rare too. This is why many authors choose to revise and resubmit, changing how they say things and removing or disguising stuff the reviewer pointed out...

In the publishing world, reviewers look for things to reject in an article or manuscript so that only the best (can't find any reason to reject even though they may not like it much) get through and get published. Rejections can come for any reason from simply not following the provided template exactly as requested to the reviewer misinterpreting some word that you used because of poor comma placement.

There's a book called the First Five Pages where the author talks about his time as a reviewer and the things he saw that caused rejections:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/068485743X/?tag=pfamazon01-20

There may be something there for your friend to use in his rewrite of his article.
 

nomadreid

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Thanks very much, jedishrfu. I will pass this along.
 

ZapperZ

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A physicist I know submitted his article to Physics Review Letters, and the article was rejected. In the rejection letter, PRL sent him the two reviews upon which the judgment was based. OK, the normal reaction would be to do a bit of appropriate revising and try another journal, maybe one without such a high standard. However, this acquaintance has decided to send a rebuttal to the reviews, showing why (he thinks) they are mistaken, in the hopes of having the article reviewed again. I never heard of a physics journal giving "second chances", but my experience is limited. Does anyone know whether he has a snowball's chance in Hades to get more than a one-line form letter back from PRL, politely telling him to give up and go away?
Now, do you know if it was outright "rejection" by both referees? Or was it simply a review with possibility of resubmission?

I know of no one (I'm included), where the first submission was accepted outright. Even when the referees like the manuscript, there will always be questions, request for further explanation, clarification, etc...etc. So you never get through with the first submission. This is why there is a rebuttal system where you get to view the referees' comments and a chance to respond and make modifications.

Unless both referees rejected it, and the editor basically said that it is not suitable for PRL, resubmission is often expected. But without further clarification, there's no way to tell here.

Zz.
 

nomadreid

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But without further clarification, there's no way to tell here.
Rejections all around.

An editor of PRL wrote
"The above manuscript has been reviewed by our referees.
On the basis of the resulting reports, it is our judgment that the
paper is unsuitable for publication in Physical Review Letters. We
append comments from the criticism that led to our decision."

The first reviewer said at the end of his/her review:
"For these reasons, I view this manuscript as very far from the
standard of publication in Phys Rev Letters. I do not recommend to
consider the manuscript any further."

The second reviewer said,
"In conclusion, they introduce ill-posed equations and can't decide if
they are solving for exact or statistical solutions. Together making
this submission inappropriate for PRL."

I am not in a position to judge the merits of the reviewers' cases (this is not my field), but it seems to me that this is pretty definitive. Or maybe "devastating" is a more appropriate word. So it does not look like re-submission is expected or even desired. So a re-write seems the best way to go, and if I can convince my acquaintance to follow jedishrfu's advice about humbly asking the editors for advice instead of challenging the reviews, then maybe I will have accomplished something, with the kind help of people on this forum. (This includes the help by berkeman in fixing up my post a bit.) Thanks all around.
 
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ZapperZ

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Rejections all around.

An editor of PRL wrote
"The above manuscript has been reviewed by our referees.
On the basis of the resulting reports, it is our judgment that the
paper is unsuitable for publication in Physical Review Letters. We
append comments from the criticism that led to our decision."

The first reviewer said at the end of his/her review:
"For these reasons, I view this manuscript as very far from the
standard of publication in Phys Rev Letters. I do not recommend to
consider the manuscript any further."

The second reviewer said,
"In conclusion, they introduce ill-posed equations and can't decide if
they are solving for exact or statistical solutions. Together making
this submission inappropriate for PRL."

I am not in a position to judge the merits of the reviewers' cases (this is not my field), but it seems to me that this is pretty definitive. Or maybe "devastating" is a more appropriate word. So it does not look like re-submission is expected or even desired. So a re-write seems the best way to go, and if I can convince my acquaintance to follow jedishrfu's advice about humbly asking the editors for advice instead of challenging the reviews, then maybe I will have accomplished something, with the kind help of people on this forum. (This includes the help by berkeman in fixing up my post a bit.) Thanks all around.
Then that is an outright rejection.

Either the author needs to completely revamp the work, or try and submit it elsehwere. PRL has a very high standard and anything that gets this level of rejection, even in the first round, will seldom make it through.

Zz.
 

Orodruin

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I never heard of a physics journal giving "second chances", but my experience is limited. Does anyone know whether he has a snowball's chance in Hades to get more than a one-line form letter back from PRL, politely telling him to give up and go away?
In some cases when you get a negative review that you feel unwarranted you can appeal with the editor and give your opinion on why the review is unwarranted. The typical result of this would be for the editor to send the manuscript to a second referee. Sometimes that referee will be sent the comments of the first referee as well as your counter argument. More times than not, the second referee agrees with the first.

Now, in PRL you typically get two referees from the beginning. The PRL standards are quite high so even if only one of your referees is negative your paper may be rejected or the editor may send it to a third referee. With two independent referees giving your paper the thumbs down (and also being quite negative) - I would say that trying to argue your case is like talking to a wall. There is no way that manuscript is getting accepted by PRL.
 

nomadreid

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Thanks, ZapperZ and Orodruin. That was my impression when the author asked me to help him correct his English in his "rebuttal letter"; and sent me the editor's answer for reference. I felt that his "appeal" would be a waste of time (mine as well as his), but in order to have the force of conviction in trying to convince him to pursue a more reasonable course of action, I wished to first check with those more familiar with such things.
 

Vanadium 50

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I agree with Zz. This paper isn't going anywhere with PRL

To answer your original question, "sometimes". It happens most often when Referee A likes a paper and Referee B really, really hates it. It also usually involves getting another referee (at least) involved to break the "tie".
 

nomadreid

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What physics journal would be appropriate for someone to submit a specialized paper on a new solution of a special case of the Navier-Stokes equations? For example, that would be too specialized for something like Physics Review Letters. (Also, of course, the journal would not have to be as high a level as Physics Review Letters, but also of course not a predatory journal.) Thanks.
 

Vanadium 50

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If it's the same paper you were talking about in this thread, nowhere. Your friend needs to abandon the idea that he is so brilliant he can publish in PRL without reading other peoples' articles and a) start reading them, and b) fix what's wrong with his paper.

If you are following the literature, you will know what journal to submit to. If you are not following the literature, your paper is not worth publishing.
 

nomadreid

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Thanks for the comment, Vanadium 50. It is not my paper, but a re-write of the paper you linked to; I am just helping the author correct the English. It is not my field, which is why I do not know which journals it should be submitted to, but I know enough to agree with you completely that the author should get rid of his illusions that the paper could meet the demands of the Physics Review journals, even though his rewrite supposedly corrected the faults pointed out by the Physics Reviews reviewers (who gave some of their reasons for roundly rejecting it) -- which is precisely why I mentioned in my request that the recommendations could be of lesser journals. In fact, I would like to use the recommendation to help steer the author away from the Physics Review journals, because he doesn't seem to understand this point. That is, the author of the paper asked the editor of Physics Reviews Letters whether it could possibly be submitted after a re-write, and the editor tactfully -- perhaps too tactfully -- told him that it would need a complete re-write -- but by "complete" I think the editor meant to start all over again, something the author did not fully understand despite my best efforts to make it clear to him. I am not in a position to say whether the paper should be published "nowhere", as the paper appears, in my unqualified view, to be perhaps not completely devoid of interest to those researching the Navier-Stokes equations, so perhaps there is some obscure but not fraudulent journal that caters to this readership. To put it another way, besides the question of the level of scholarship in the paper (which I am not qualified to judge), there is also the problem that the Physics Review Letters aims for a broad audience of physics so that they can keep abreast of important developments in other fields of physics; this paper seems not to be either of general importance or aimed at a wide audience, but perhaps there are journals that provide minor results to a narrow readership. I don't know, which is why I turn to this forum.
 

ZapperZ

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You should also look at it from our perspective. All we have so far are : (i) the paper has been soundly rejected, and (ii) vague description of what it is presenting.

How in the world do you expect us to be able to make such recommendation that you are asking?

Are there specialized journals in most field of physics? Sure! But even they have standards! And right now, I certainly have no clue what standard this work is at!

But really, the problem here is with the author. If he doesn't know all the journals that are relevant to this particular field of study, then it shows that the paper has no references (who does he thinks he is, Albert Einstein?), he is not paying attention to the journals being cited in his references, or he doesn't read journals that are relevant to his area.

Any one of those can prove fatal to anyone writing a paper for publication.

BTW, how easy it is do you think to read one continuous, long paragraph?

Zz.
 

Vanadium 50

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If he doesn't know all the journals that are relevant to this particular field of study, then it shows that the paper has no references (who does he thinks he is, Albert Einstein?), he is not paying attention to the journals being cited in his references, or he doesn't read journals that are relevant to his area.
Exactly the point I was trying to make.

And to expand upon this, scientific publication is a dialog. If he's not reading the relevant literature but wants to publish anyway, that's equivalent to wanting to speak without listening. Nobody likes this, and at best all it does is generates noise.
 

Dr. Courtney

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If you are following the literature, you will know what journal to submit to.
This is true in some fields like atomic physics and condensed matter, but not so much in other fields like blast physics with important papers spread across many journals. Our first blast physics paper was published in Medical Hypotheses and didn't cite a single paper from that journal. Then we published in NeuroImage and then in Review of Scientific Instruments without citing any papers from the journals to which we submitted. My point is, following the literature does not always make the choice of journal to submit to easy. Fluid dynamics is trickier than AMO. I'm batting around 70% with PRL submissions, and the second choice is easy in AMO physics (PRA), but other fields are more challenging to pick a journal.

But for the OP, going back to PRL after a sound rejection is likely a waste of time. Nothing wrong with aiming high if the author can wait the required 3-6 months for a decision. But each resubmission can take MONTHS, and I like to pick journals where odds are high to get it published on the 1st or 2nd try so I'm not still playing reviewer roulette a year later.

My advice for younger authors is to learn as much as you can from the reviewer reports in a rejection, improve the paper as much as possible, and resubmit to a more appropriate (usually a lower tier) journal. The opportunity cost for each rejection tends to be a 3-6 month delay (sometimes as long as 24 months). If I've done work I'm confident in (and a good scientist is his harshest critic), then I don't want to wait more than 2 review cycles to get it in print. I got other fish to fry.

I became well known and highly cited in the Blast Physics community because of the quality of our work. The tier of journal it was published in really didn't matter to me or to them. (Having papers in Rev Sci Inst did help my student co-authors, because of the respect that journal has among physicists.) But then I've also had students get new lab jobs and have a rejected paper sitting on their mentor's computer (from arXiv) because the lab found the technique described therein to be important in their lab. If you've done good work, people will notice it and use it even if it never gets past arXiv. A number of our arXiv only papers are well-known and widely used. Get your work in print. If it is good, it will not be invisible.
 

Vanadium 50

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Our first blast physics paper was published in Medical Hypotheses and didn't cite a single paper from that journal. Then we published in NeuroImage and then in Review of Scientific Instruments without citing any papers from the journals to which we submitted.
Were you reading those journals? If so, I think you're agreeing with me.
 

Dr. Courtney

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Were you reading those journals? If so, I think you're agreeing with me.
I don't read journals and I haven't since the 1990s. I read electronic copies of papers. Since the journals in which we published our first blast physics papers did not contain many blast physic papers, I had not read many papers from them when we wrote our papers, perhaps not any at all. Right before submission, we usually read a few papers from the journal to which we're submitting to get a feel for style and scope even if the journal has rarely or never published a paper in the field to which our paper really belongs. I can't find that Review of Scientific Instruments had published a single blast physics paper before we submitted ours, and Medical Hypotheses had only published one.

Ballistics is similar. I'd never read any articles in Medicine, Science, and the Law or Applied Acoustics when I wrote the early drafts ballistics papers published in those journals. I did read papers from each journal right before submission to clarify style and scope questions before final submission.

I also don't read Physics Education or European Journal of Physics. To me, The Physics Teacher is the top tier journal in physics education. Physics Education and European Journal of Physics are choices for me after a paper gets rejected from TPT or if I think a paper is a long shot to get published in TPT.
 

Vanadium 50

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I don't read journals and I haven't since the 1990s. I read electronic copies of papers.
That's quibbling. I don't read journals either - I read the light reflected by them off the page (or screen).
 

nomadreid

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The OP putting back in a word. Very interesting discussion, thanks to all. Also;
BTW, how easy it is do you think to read one continuous, long paragraph?
Ah, you're absolutely right. I am properly chastened. Sorry. :sorry:
But really, the problem here is with the author.
Yes.
going back to PRL after a sound rejection is likely a waste of time.
Yes, absolutely. Which is why I was trying to look for some lesser journals.
And right now, I certainly have no clue what standard this work is at!
Assume mediocre. Certainly not on Physics Reviews level. As this is not my field, I only knew of PRX (Physics Reviews X), but although it would be more relevant than PRL, it is not something that I would recommend to this author. Rather, a better recommendation was:
improve the paper as much as possible, and resubmit to a more appropriate (usually a lower tier) journal.
So, I was looking for these lower tier journals. I should have specified this more strongly in my original post. Again, sorry.
If he doesn't know all the journals that are relevant to this particular field of study, then it shows that the paper has no references
Actually, it does have references, although mostly books or colloquium reports, but also the following journals
PhysicaD, , Geophys.Astrophys.Fluid Dyn , Rev. Mod. Phys., , Phys. Fluids, , J. Fluid Mech., So it is a mystery to me as well why he doesn't try those journals first.
For some reason the obvious idea of looking in his references for ways to answer my original question did not occur to me when I posted, and so I feel a bit guilty for my oversight.
(who does he thinks he is, Albert Einstein?
Ah, I did not know that bit of history (about Einstein's paucity of references in his papers). But no, the author under discussion doesn't get close.
Get your work in print.
That is, ArXiv. Yes, I see this author has used ArXiv before, so I am not sure why he is not using it this time.
In any case, sorry to interrupt the more recent posts; I think that the posts so far have pretty well addressed my question as much as possible, so I am inserting this primarily to thank all the posters. Now, I will try to make these points to the author, and if he doesn't listen, I shall give up.
 
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Dr. Courtney

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That's quibbling. I don't read journals either - I read the light reflected by them off the page (or screen).
I don't mean it to be, since my perspective is much more open minded than many here about whether the paper has been peer-reviewed or appeared in a refereed journal. If the title is interesting, I'm as likely to read a paper in arXiv or DTIC (Defense Technology Information Center) as I am to read it in a refereed source. I've also had satisfactory success citing unrefereed papers and having my own unrefereed papers cited by other authors. "Peer-review" as a demarcation of quality is not nearly what it was 25 years ago. There is tremendous value in the vast grey literature.
 
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Hey nomadreid, do you know your acquaintances objective in posting their paper?

And I'm assuming they are not currently working within an academic framework - researcher, experimenter, lecturer etc. - such that their employer could assist with their publication efforts?

Finally, do you consider them an 'outsider' in the field the paper is written about?
 

nomadreid

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do you know your acquaintances objective in posting their paper?
Do you mean the point he is trying to make with the paper, or the reason he wishes to have the paper published? The answer to the first is a certain case of the Navier-Stokes equations; the second one is the reason anyone in academia posts a paper -- to show a result they got and, if possible, increase their academic "karma" in the eyes of the powers-that-be.
I'm assuming they are not currently working within an academic framework - researcher, experimenter, lecturer etc.
The assumption is wrong. The author is working as a researcher at a university, and he has published here and there in the past, although never in a journal of this stature. He is aiming higher this time perhaps (my guess) because of his own evaluation of the importance of the result (probably over-estimating, but this is not my field, so I can't judge) , but it appears the main problem is that, despite the attempts of the editors as well as my own to explain to him, that he does not understand that the PRL is not for papers with a specialized audience.
do you consider them an 'outsider' in the field the paper is written about?
Do you mean whether the paper is an outsider, or the author? As for the paper, as I said, this is not my field, so I cannot judge . As far as the author, he is certainly not someone who has published major papers, but on the other hand, he is not an amateur.
 
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Thanks nomadreid, I appreciate the situation now and given your acquaintance appears to be willfully ignoring the clear evidence of rejection, for whatever their reasons, it seems hard to provide constructive advice rather than armchair commentary.

But...
  1. It would seem that the author is in an environment with colleagues or like-minded experts who can assist resolve all the PRL feedback to improve the paper, irrespective of where it eventually gets published, do you know if this has been done?

    If not: step away!

  2. A quick Google Scholar search for "Navier-Stokes equations" indicates a swag of alternative submission end points, but is the author willing to downgrade their ambitions?

    If not: step away!

  3. Given that the author is "not someone who has published major papers", are they open to collaborating with someone they trust who has published major papers, and sharing some of the glory instead of none of the glory?

    If not: step away!
LOL, looking at my list, I think I'm saying...step away :nb)
 

nomadreid

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Thanks, Tghu Verd
looking at my list, I think I'm saying...step away
Oh, I have. After he
appears to be willfully ignoring the clear evidence of rejection
I have, at least for the moment, given up. Maybe he will learn from the next round of rejection (that it, he "revised" the paper a little and re-sent it to PRL, but his revised paper still is inappropriate for PRL. PRL hasn't answered him yet, but assuming they do answer -- that is, assuming they do not just throw up their hands and figure that it is not worth the trouble to try to reply to him -- the next rejection is inevitable.) On the other hand, maybe he will just feel persecuted. Whatever. He pays me to proof-read, and I will stick to that.
It would seem that the author is in an environment with colleagues or like-minded experts who can assist resolve all the PRL feedback to improve the paper, irrespective of where it eventually gets published, do you know if this has been done?
In his paper, he did not put any "thanks to.... for their help....", I can only assume that he did not. If he had and his colleagues were any good, they would have told him the same thing. Of course, he might not have believed them either.
A quick Google Scholar search for "Navier-Stokes equations" indicates a swag of alternative submission end points, but is the author willing to downgrade their ambitions?
I suggested some more appropriate journals to him, but he ignored me. OK, his funeral, not mine.
are they open to collaborating with someone they trust who has published major papers, and sharing some of the glory
Maybe. No idea. Maybe once he realizes that his efforts are inadequate, I could suggest to him to seek out such a person. Right now I am waiting to see the effect of the next rejection.
 

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