10

Since this is a longer story, let me first give some background:

We submitted a publication to a journal in the field of engineering. The article remained on the status “with editor” for more than two months. Our inquiries with the editor-in-chief and through the publisher’s contact form were not answered. When we contacted the assistant editor, things got moving and we got a “major revision” with rather positive, but brief comments from two reviewers. The editor-in-chief handled the manuscript. We addressed all of the comments very carefully and resubmitted.

The next day we received a desk reject from the editor-in-chief as the handling editor. They said our article was out of scope and had a lack of novelty. Both of these issues have not been mentioned by the previous decision letter or the reviewers’ comments. On the contrary, one of the reviewers specifically commented that the paper was on scope in this journal and the results would be useful for researchers and practitioners.

The journal does not have a formal way to appeal, and the author guidelines state that editor decisions are final. The editor-in-chief did not react to our request to clarify how our manuscript could have become worse, i.e. out of scope, after the revision. Due to a number of constraints, it is difficult for us to go to another journal.

If we would have gotten a desk reject on the initial submission in a useful delay, I would have accepted the decision. But I find it unprofessional to reject a revised manuscript on those grounds.

Given these circumstances, how should we proceed?

  • 3
    Same as with other rejected papers: try another journal. – GEdgar Apr 2 '18 at 20:44
  • 4
    You move on to another journal. Life is too short to worry about such things. – RoboKaren Apr 2 '18 at 20:45
  • Who is the assistant editor? Is he / she a member of the editorial board? – Allure Apr 2 '18 at 21:32
  • @Allure Yes he / she is. We contacted them as a "last resort" because we were not able to get a reaction from the managing editor, i.e. the editor-in-chief. They were apologetic and I believe they were able to draw the editor-in-chief's attention to our paper. – n1000 Apr 2 '18 at 21:37
  • Well that's what ResearchGate is for I believe. – Sunnyskyguy EE75 Apr 3 '18 at 0:15
5

Something out of the ordinary clearly happened. It's not professional to reject a paper as being out of scope after it's been revised. My speculative guess is that the editor-in-chief is not very active, and the assistant editor was trying to keep things moving on her own initiative. The letters you received might well be automated emails with automated signatures by the editor-in-chief, i.e. the EiC didn't actually handle your manuscript. However this is pure speculation, and can be completely wrong.

Suggestions on what to do now: if you received a personalized letter from the editor-in-chief saying your paper is out of scope, don't bother appealing the decision and submit it elsewhere. Otherwise, you can write back to the journal to check if there was a mistake, pointing out that one of the reviewers did, after all, say your paper was within scope + useful to the field. I would not be very hopeful, but it's an option.

  • 1
    Just an update, after the paper has been successfully published. Your guess was right, something out of the ordinary happened: The EIC changed between our initial submission and the revision. Given the specialized nature of the work, we did not have many alternatives journals to choose from. – n1000 Jan 14 at 9:57
3

This is a strange situation.

It is possible that the desk rejection was a mistake. I once received an email with two good reviews attached, telling me “Your paper is not accepted.” While my co-authors and I were boggling about this, I received a second email from the editor, profusely apologising for the typo. Since mistakes can happen, you should send a short note to the editor saying that you were surprised that your paper was desk-rejected as out of scope after it had already been peer-reviewed and revised, and ask them to confirm that this decision was correct.

If they really have rejected your paper in this ridiculous way, shake the dust from your feet and send the paper somewhere else. In that situation, I wouldn’t waste my time sending any papers to that journal in future.

2

Case: There are two persons involved here. The assistant editor thought that your article should be given a chance of peer-review. However, it might have been possible that the Editor in chief was not at all keen on passing the article for peer-review in the first place. Since, you revised the article and submitted again the editor in chief this time thought to stop it as it was probably not suitable for his journal.

Reason: This happens when the editorial assistant (office guys) handle the responsibility of assigning the assistant editor for manuscripts. For example, many journals have area wise editors e.g. Asia, Europe, ... The area of a manuscript is based on the area of the corresponding author.

Suggestion: Submit elsewhere. Since, you have revised the article carefully, it should be accepted somewhere.

  • You may have a point with your "case". However, it was the editor-in-chief that sent out the first decision. – n1000 Apr 2 '18 at 21:10

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