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I had recently developed a method and submitted as a manuscript to a journal. Out of four reviewers, three accepted the method and asked for some clarifications about the method:- 2 with major revision and 1 with a minor revision. But the left one,say X, has rejected and just written one line in his/her report i.e. "I feel the approach made in this method is not valid."

Editor's decision: Reject

So I revisited all the approaches, discussed with our group leader and co-authors. Our leader is advising to submit to other journal. But I would like to reply to X and the editor that my approach is quite valid. So how can I do it?

Is their anyone who is the superior to a editor?

Moreover, I am wondering how the editor took a negative decision just based on one reviewer's feeling? I would appreciate both the editor and reviewer, if they could have provided some hints why does the reviewer X feel this is not a valid approach.

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    Just accept it and move on (consider revising, then submit elsewhere). – Bitwise Mar 26 '18 at 20:18
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    @Bitwise the problem is that giving scant, disingenuous reviews is a thing that should be discouraged. Punting flawed articles around journals until they're accepted causes problems. In some cases, I have seen editors write thoughtful responses after foregoing review. I think it's acceptable to ask for more details from reviewer 4 or, apparently, the editor (whose reasons for rejection may not be in line with reviewer 4 at all). – AdamO Mar 26 '18 at 20:33
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    @AdamO I totally agree that such reviews are bad and that it is ok to ask the editor for details. However, in my experience this very rarely changes the result and just causes further delay before submitting to a different journal. So it may be in OP's best interest to just skip this and save time. – Bitwise Mar 27 '18 at 21:36
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You seem to assume that the editor rejected the article because of that one reviewer. That may be true, but my guess would be that that is not (entirely) the case. Reviewers just see one submission in isolation, the editor sees all the submissions, and only has limited space in her or his journal. So the editor typically cannot accept all articles that the reviewers thought were OK. Making that hard choice is her or his job.

Given that and your description of what happened, it is extremely unlikely that any complaint procedure (if one exists for your journal) will be successful.

Think of your options this way: such a procedure will take time, and during that time your article cannot be submitted somewhere else. So you loose time for a very small chance that it will appear in that journal. Alternatively, you could immediately submit is somewhere else, thus increasing the chance of getting published quicker. I know what I would do.


Edit: Based on @Kay 's comments it seems clearer where the problem is. Kay seems to assume that the review process is a scientific debate. That premise is incorrect. Academic debates happen at conferences or after an article gets published. The peer review process is a mainly bureaucratic procedure aimed at quality control (with strengths and lots of weaknesses). The review process is not suited for an academic debate for (at least) two reasons: The anonymity makes it hard or impossible to directly respond, so there is no exchange, and the reviewer's main audience is the editor not the authors. The comments you get that help you improve your paper are basically a (very nice) side effect of that bureaucratic process, but the main aim is to help the editor decide whether or not (s)he wants to publish your article.

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    It would be really inefficient and almost offensive to the referees if the editor decided on a rejection after the reports came in just because they do not think it fits into the journal. Then they wasted everyone's time. – Ian Mar 26 '18 at 13:52
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    @Ian 2x major revision, 1x minor 1x reject, maybe that didn't meet the quality standard. Maybe better papers were submitted. Maybe whatever. – DonQuiKong Mar 26 '18 at 14:17
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    @Kay: He did not explain in his review, but it might be that he wrote an accompanying letter to the editor, possibly including sensitive information that should rather not go into the review. No clue if that is actually the case, but you are too fast in assuming that the editors decision was solely based on that single line. – BPND Mar 26 '18 at 14:40
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    @Kay I realize you are upset. Believe me, I have been where you are now. This is Academia. If you want to stay here, you will have to learn how to deal with rejections, a lot of rejections. Some fair others less so. You just need to learn to shrug it off, otherwise your life is going to be miserable. – Maarten Buis Mar 26 '18 at 15:04
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    @Kay: I think it's also worth considering that you don't have a right to get your paper published. It's the journal's right to make that decision. They have made their decision, based on considerations you only partially know. You can fight this and maybe get more feedback, but ultimately, your chances of getting the decision reversed are very low because they were well within their rights. Why would the Editor-in-Chief reverse her editor's decision given that the editor had all of the information? – Wolfgang Bangerth Mar 26 '18 at 19:57
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It simply means they are not interested to publish your manuscript based on the reviewers report, maybe due to the following reasons

  1. The journal policy may be like that (not to accept any publication if any of the reports is not favorable).

  2. They have no place to publish your manuscript (may be choosing the best manuscripts), otherwise, I feel they would have definitely given you the reason and asked for the revision as reported by the other reviewers.

So don't waste your time waiting to get your manuscript accepted in that journal. Choose any other journal and submit your manuscript as soon as possible to get it published sooner than later.

Edit: According to the comments, mourning for manuscript rejection is still going on. Let me tell you that academics is the place where you will get a lot of critics, more rejections, and fewer acceptances, and you need to be ready to face the reality.

Go ahead and submit your manuscript to a better journal than you already submitted (if you are so confident that your method is valid.)

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It can't hurt to reach out to the editor and ask why this paper specifically was rejected. A senior PI once gave me the advice to always do this if you don't agree with the decision making process. Most of the time they don't really have a good reason for rejecting you, and there's a non-zero chance that you'll be given another shot at submission now that they know you won't blindly accept their decision without explanation. Worst case scenario you are still rejected, and spend the amount of time it takes to write an email.

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    I like this approach (especially if there's a way to get clarification on why the approach wouldn't be valid, so the authors can address those concerns), but I don't have the experience to know whether this would actually be welcomed by most editors. (Worst case scenario: the editor perceives rudeness and holds a grudge.) – cactus_pardner Mar 26 '18 at 17:27
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I agree with Maarten Buis that you should submit somewhere else, but you should certainly not do it immediately. You should first do these major and minor revisions that were asked by the reviewers. First, this will make your paper better. Second, if you again encounter some of the same reviewers at the other journal, this will play in your favour, as they will see that they have not worked in vain.

The positive aspects of being rejected are getting more reviewers and editors to read your paper, and getting more feedback. If you are striving for quality rather than publishing to avoid perishing, you should make the most of that feedback.

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Yes, there is someone superior to an editor - the editor-in-chief. He's usually the best person to approach. If you don't know who to direct an appeal to, simply reply to the rejection email. You should at least reach the journal's publisher, who will know who to redirect the appeal to.

About how to appeal, some publishers even detail the appeal process on their website. For example, here is Springler's writeup on it. The key idea is to explain carefully why the reject review(s) is invalid, and include new information or data that wasn't originally in your paper or cover letter. Do not criticize the reviewers or the editor - criticize only their arguments.

Finally about why editors might make a negative decision based only on one reviewer's report, check out the reverse question on why sometimes papers are accepted even though the reviews are negative. The short version is that the peer review process is not a scientific one, and reviewers only make recommendations. It's possible an editor accepts an article which reviewers recommend rejection, just as it's possible the reverse happens.

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If I were in your situation, there are two rather different things that I'd want. (1) I'd want to get my paper published. (2) I'd want to know why one reviewer thought my method isn't valid. Is there really something wrong with the method? If so, what? Or did the reviewer just not understand the method? In that case, might adding a clarifying sentence or two help future readers (and reviewers) avoid that mistake?

For (1), I think the optimal strategy is, as others have suggested, to submit the paper to a different journal. In my experience, editors are very reluctant to reverse a negative decision, even if the reason for the decision was definitely wrong (as happened to me once).

For (2), I think it's perfectly reasonable to write to the editor asking for more information about what the reviewer thinks is wrong with your method. If you've submitted the paper to another journal (or if you firmly intend to do so), then say so in your message to the editor. That way, it's clear that you're genuinely just asking for information (information that I'd say you're entitled to), not arguing about the decision or trying to get it reversed.

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