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I had submitted this paper of mine to a reputed springer journal some time back. There are reasons for me to believe it is a good journal although it has an impact factor of only 0.941 since most of the original work on the problem ( I will describe that in detail below) I'm working on was published in that journal. A few days back I received a decision from them which said that they wouldn't be considering it for publication and this was the reviewer's comment - "I am afraid i do not see a contribution by this paper valuable enough for publication in the Journal. Neither regarding the problem setting nor regarding the solution method any new insights are provided".

Now, I do admit that my work isn't something path breaking or completely novel (I shall give a detailed description in the end). What I have essentially done is that I have used existing algorithms and techniques and have applied the same on the specific problem I was working on and have got significant results (please see the complete detail of the problem in the end).

So post rejection I have actually been in a complete dilemma on whether I should actually try publishing my work again with some other journals and I have also begun to wonder if journals actually accept such work. The problem is that I have no prior experience of publishing papers and I'm an undergraduate student. So it would be really nice if someone could help me with this.


More on the Problem:

The problem I have been working on is the Traveling Tournament Problem. So what I have done here is that I have taken existing techniques and algorithms for this problem and I have applied it to a very popular sports league in order to schedule it. And doing so has actually given me some "significant"(?) results like reduction in the travel distance in this league. I am also pretty sure no one has actually worked on this particular league before, so this would be the first instance of the same.

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    What does your advisor say about it? – user102 Jul 18 '13 at 9:31
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    @CharlesMorisset you are not \@JeffE. It is his type of answer to any question ;) – NPcompleteUser Jul 18 '13 at 12:28
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    @NPcompleteUser: My work here is done. – JeffE Jul 18 '13 at 14:26
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    @NPcompleteUser: At least, I didn't use the "Don't walk. Run." ;) (although considering the answer from Vijay, that would be a good fit too ...). – user102 Jul 18 '13 at 15:26
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    As far as I understand your description of what you achieved, I would say that you should contact the organization of the sport league (or other that should be interested): they are probably the most interested in what you did. – Benoît Kloeckner Jul 18 '13 at 18:56
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In publishing there is a phenomena called "me too" publications (see for example Day & Gastel: How to write and Publish A Scientific Paper) where one takes existing methods and apply them to a new area, data set, whatever context is applicable. Although not wrong, these types of studies usually do not contribute much new knowledge except resulting in the understandng that the method(s) work in (yet) another circumstance.

What can then be done? As I alluded to initially, there is nothing really wrong with such studies. What is necessary is to convince the editors and reviewers that by applying the method(s) to the new area, you have actually achieved something new (in the sense of scientific discovery). For example, applying a formula to a new set of numbers is not a discovery unless the new numbers themselves contain something that can be set apart from what has been done before. So it boils down to what might sloppily be called "packaging"; you need to package your study so that it is evident what new discovery is achieved. It is not sufficient to just say that it is a new data set but you need to convince that applying the method(s) to the new data set shows results that expand our horizon beyond the obvious and also be explicit why one, for example, would not expect the result you obtained (or equivalent).

I have deliberately kept this answer as general as I can because the issue you bring up applies to many if not all fields. I would give the manuscript a hard work over and really think about what truly scientifically (intelectually) new aspects you bring forth. It may be that your writing has not been clear enough to bring the message through. It may be that you are too involved to see the bigger picture that needs to be explained to others. Or, in the worst case, it may be that your study is too trivial. Avoid falling into the "me too" trap, it easily happens and the remedy is usually to make sure the perspectives of the study are re-written carefully to highlight the core research problem to be solved.

So to answer, yes you should try again unless you find you are stuck in "me too" land.

  • Thank you so much for the ref and the "me too" type of publications. They are legions in some areas, and I had yet to find a way to name them. – gaborous Nov 18 '14 at 19:11
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Peter Janssons answer is good. I would like to add something specifically on the venue.

If you develop or apply a new method, submit to a journal that focus on methods.

If you apply an existing method to a field where it hasn't before, submit to a journal that focuses on the application. This can be very enriching, perhaps nobody in this field thought of using this method before, maybe they didn't know it existed. Such a paper can be rather short and won't be prize-winning, but can certainly be publishable.

So, perhaps all you need to do is sit with your advisor and reconsider the venue where you're publishing, in addition to some packaging as Peter Jansson describes.

  • First of all thank you for the response. While my adviser certainly believes that it is something that can be/ ought to be published, I must say that quite sadly she hasn't been much of a help. The problem is that she has been pushing me to actually publish in journals where the review time is minimum (maybe because she too lacks much research experience) paying no heed to how good or bad the journal is and so I'm somewhere in the crossroads unable to find something suitable and good. – anon. computer scientist Jul 18 '13 at 12:22

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