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In a recent manuscript, we used a first principles calculation A and used it to explain experimental results B. A and B are based on existing methods, the novelty primarily lies in combining them and going from theory to real world application.

The reviewer gave several comments (fair & helpful), one of them being to divide the work into A and B. The decision was Reject & Resubmit. We (the authors) are divided on:

  1. Submitting A as a letter (short communication) and B as a full paper to the same journal, together, explaining the changes to the editor and attaching response to reviewer.

  2. Submitting A as a letter to a new journal and B as a full paper to the original journal, giving response to reviewer only to the original journal.

  3. Submitting an edited but undivided paper to a lower impact journal.

Which of these is the optimal option?

*Additional information:

The original journal has perhaps 10% acceptance ratio, the lower impact journal closer to 40% (anecdotal numbers only).

Besides the division, reviewer comments are significant and there is some chance that we may not be able to satisfy all the suggestions.

In this field, A and B are generally treated as separate domains, though this is changing now.*

EDIT: Clarification about letter and full paper: For the journals in question, a full paper reports new, original results, typically without stringent page limits (but conventionally 5000-8000 words). A letter on the other hand reports brief results of immediate interest. These often describe a breakthrough that may not be fully developed, but which opens up avenues for further work. These letters are strictly limited to 2000 words and have a cap on figures etc (typically 3 max.).

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    How did you get the acceptance ratio for both journals? Have they mentioned it in their website or publisher has mentioned it? Usually, they don't consider desk rejects, so be careful with these numbers while making your decision. – Coder Apr 28 '18 at 9:50
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    Those are anectodal, crowdsourced numbers, not particularly accurate. Just indicative. Edited question accordingly, thanks! – user153812 Apr 28 '18 at 11:06
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    I suggest that you write to the editor asking in which form they want you to resubmit the paper. You may ask whether it is OK to resubmit two separate papers to this journal. – BrainResearcher Apr 28 '18 at 12:22
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    I've mentioned it in a similar question before. In case you submit two papers: make sure to submit both to arXiv beforehand (if it's feasible in your research area) or at least supply the other paper within the submission. This way the reviewers of the theory part know, there is an application. And reviewers of the application know where to read-up in-depth theory. – Oleg Lobachev Apr 28 '18 at 17:19
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    @Oleg Lobachev- thanks, that's good advice. arXiv won't be feasible, but the paper can certainly be supplied. Still, the question stands about whether to submit both to one journal or to different journals. – user153812 Apr 28 '18 at 18:30
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+150

Based on the information you provided, I would definitely and gladly divide the paper into two shorter manuscripts to be submitted at the same time to the same journal. In such fashion as in:

On the application of theory (I): Demonstrating A;

On the application of theory (II): Explaining B.

I think such papers are elegant, easier to read, more attractive, and potentially more organised than a heavier, lengthy treatise going through A into presenting and explaining B.

However make sure the manuscripts are independently readable, so that someone could find paper (II) and find all he seeks whether or not there's also interest in part (I) which probably requires a different background. Organising these serial publications in the proper way depends on considerable skill and chance. You may have hit a good opportunity.

An example of series papers given below:

Re-investigation of venom chemistry of Solenopsis fire ants. I. Identification of novel alkaloids in S. richteri. 10.1016/j.toxicon.2008.12.019

Re-investigation of venom chemistry of Solenopsis fire ants. II. Identification of novel alkaloids in S. invicta. 10.1016/j.toxicon.2009.01.016

(Not exactly the best papers ever, but the format is neat.)

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    Thank you! I'd appreciate if you could clarify a few things (in the answer itself, so its helpful to more people) : (1) Are you suggesting division into 2 regular articles of roughly equal length, as opposed to 1 letter and 1 full-length? If so, is there any advantage to the former over the latter? (2) It would be nice if you could provide a link to such a manuscript, so that I can see how they two are connected. Field is immaterial here. – user153812 May 3 '18 at 5:07
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    @user153812 Regarding your question (1) I decided to answer here, as I find it less technical. I cannot tell how long each paper would be. I think they ought to be self-sufficient and complete regardless of format specifications or length. However the irrational funding and CV metrics of many places may have different views on different paper formats, e.g. short communication vs. letter to editor, etc. I believe any format is OK if easy to read and understand. Your funders may have a different opinion from a scientist. – Scientist May 3 '18 at 11:01
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    @Scientist-Thanks for the references! I've edited the question to highlight some relevant differences between letter and full paper. I'd love to hear your opinion with those differences in mind; funder preferences may be ignored in this case. – user153812 May 4 '18 at 7:57
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    @user153812 Sorry for a delay as I have been traveling. In your position I'd push to the full paper format as it sounds like both discussions are technically self-sufficient. However this is hard to state as I haven't seen the contents and I am no expert. In the end the focus should be in keeping the records clear in terms of reproducibility and advancing the field -- I am sure you will see the best choices in between these formats. – Scientist May 20 '18 at 12:55
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This is common for very novel, high impact findings, particularly when the issues are complex and have both theory and application. What I’ve seen work is a shorter theoretical work submitted to a high impact journal that touches on application (often, the work references this ‘submitted’ or ‘in preparation’ work). The longer work is then submitted to a lower impact journal, sometimes just because the page limitations are more forgiving.

This of course works best when you can tell two separate but related stories that feel complete on their own. If you and your coauthors feel like such separation is forced, it may weaken rather than strengthen the effort.

I’d say your #1 might be unlikely unless you get buy-in through discussion with the journal. #3 may not do your work justice. I’d lobby for #2 based on the limited information available.

  • Thanks! This is good advice, but in the present case, the theory may be less novel/impactful than the applications building off it; which means the short theory paper would be less likely to be accepted in the high impact journal. Given this, would your answer be different? Also, page limitation may not be an issue because we are confident we can tailor the length if needed. – user153812 May 2 '18 at 4:03
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Sometimes an "LPU" (Least Publishable Unit) is easier to get accepted and to digest.

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    Hi guest! It looks like you may have gotten your first down-vote. Not sure if that's because defense of the LPU is unpopular or because they'd prefer your answer had a little more substance. You may want to take a look at this guide on writing good answers for Academia SE; the culture here is different than I've seen on some other sites. – cactus_pardner May 1 '18 at 23:02
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    @guest- Sorry, I am not familiar with LPU, though I'm getting a general contextual sense. Could you please expand on that and indicate how it works with respect to the present question? – user153812 May 2 '18 at 4:05
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    @user153812 I will intrude here to explain that "Least Publishable Unit" is a term created some 15 years ago for any small amount of data and narrative which would suffice for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. That means, someone makes a couple of quick experiments over a not-so-brilliant hypothesis and wraps it up in some innocuous paper in a mainstream journal. Many institutions in fact encourage this kind of practice to ensure maximal "output" per minimum effort/time/resources... while modern science grows as a historical facade. – Scientist May 22 '18 at 21:22
  • @Scientist- Thank you, its good to know this. I see why it is unpopular. – user153812 May 23 '18 at 4:56

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