We have an editorial decision after major revision: decline and resubmit.
Decisive is a reviewer who feels that the novelty of our work is too much limited into a specific area.
This reviewer gave concrete directions in the first round of review. We had to remove a full explanatory section because it should be well known to the audience. We had to add an additional analysis to support the relevance of our method development. We had to restructure the paper and change our line of reasoning and writing style. Otherwise, the submission would not qualify to be publishable. The reviewer even explicitly expressed his future support as the reviewer saw ‘promise in our intentions’.
We carefully followed all the reviewer’s critiques and basically rewrote our paper. For language we send the paper to a publishing service. The reviewer acknowledges and applauds our improved work, but still rejects the work.
The editor encourages us to decline and resubmit (with the assurance that we will get new reviewers), which I interpret as the paper is considered to be publishable for this journal and its audience. But I also feel, addressing this reviewer’s critiques, has not improved its chances for acceptance (here or elsewhere) because the paper has become more specialized.
If we had refuted the reviewer’s critiques in the first place, the paper would have been rejected. Now we followed the reviewer’s critiques carefully and the paper is still rejected.
Why do certain reviewers recommend major revision if they never intend to accept a paper in the first place? Is it not much more fair to reject a paper immediately if you feel the topic is too specialized for the audience, although this journal publishes many other papers which are highly specialized in their domains?
Or should I ask why the editor chooses the easy route: decline and resubmit? The final reviewer’s comment is not repairable and the editor is in charge.
Or should I ask what I did wrong? I just do not know. How can I improve my work further if I just don’t know what to improve?
What should we do? Appeal, resubmit the revised version with this journal, resubmit the original version somewhere else?