My paper is rejected based on a wrong (I am almost certain that it is wrong) comment of a single reviewer and the content is as below

The manuscript focuses on the problem of "Some Technical Things". This problem has been solved in several papers of "Mr. X" : See, for example "This Article".

But "This Article" of "Mr. X" is totally different from what we have done, and addresses a completely different problem. I don't know how I can show my objection to this unfair review that has wasted my time for two months!

I sent an e-mail to the journal's editor but he did not respond.

Do you have any suggestions that one can do in such situations?


Here is my point of view which I could achieve by investigating some other similar cases among colleagues and friends.

It seems that some good journals that receive a huge amount of high quality papers, send all of them to the review process. After two month and based on the amount of papers they have received they decide to decline some of the papers due to publication limitations of the journal. They just can't publish all of these so they choose the best from the best. However, since the reviewers have not yet replied or are most likely to put positive comments on the paper, they reject the paper with a fake comment from an unreal reviewer! This is some how apparent from the fake comments as they do not include too much technical information, they are usually short and do not contain any reasonable point for rejecting the paper and there is only the comments of a single reviewer, while in a real review at least two reviewers are included.

I think this behaviour is unethical and unacceptable as they are trying to deceive you so that you continue sending your good papers to them! That's a shame!

  • 1
    Comments deleted since they have either been addressed by edits or were answers as comments that are redundant to existing answers. – Wrzlprmft Oct 13 at 5:32
  • 3
    I say: submit to another journal. Do not argue with the editor. – GEdgar yesterday
  • 1
    The added part does not seem to actually be relevant. It looks like it is just a rant against a practice with no actual evidence that this practice even occurs. – Tobias Kildetoft yesterday
  • 1
    -1 for the pointless rant. – Michael Greinecker yesterday
  • Peer reviews are just lottery. Just try again at another journal. – user12956 20 hours ago
up vote 71 down vote accepted
  1. Wait. The editor has to assess if your claim is correct. People are busy. In addition, they may need to ask a more expert colleague for a quick opinion; this is not a full round of review, but still it will take several days. I would give them at least two weeks, personally (but publication times are heavily discipline-dependent).
  2. If the editor agrees with the reviewer, consider seriously the possibility that they are correct and you are wrong. Ask privately for another opinion to a collaborator/colleague you are in good terms with, just to understand where the truth lies.
  3. If you conclude that the referee is completely bonkers and their claim is ridiculously wrong, ignore their remark, submit somewhere else, and make a note for the future that this is not a good journal.
  4. If you conclude that the referee is wrong, but their one is a reasonable mis-interpretation and someone else may get it wrong, too, then revise your introduction: mention mr. X's papers and explain in your manuscript why they don't solve your problem. Then, submit somewhere else.

(Note that case 4 is much more common than case 3.)

  • 1
    I moved the discussion about review times and other non-comments to chat. Please read this FAQ before posting another comment. – Wrzlprmft Oct 13 at 5:37
  • About No. 1, they can at least give an initial response to my email that they will consider this issue and will inform me in the next two weeks, for example. I have not received such a thing! Also, editors often check their email on a regular basis so it is likely that they have read my email and left it without response which is unfortunately the most common and probable case. – H. R. Oct 13 at 12:37
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    I wonder if case 3 may be more common if the mysterious Mr. X happens to be the reviewer... – pipe Oct 14 at 0:18

You know what the referee said in the part of the review meant to be seen by the authors, and you know that the paper was rejected. You don't have necessarily have access to all the communication between the editor and the referee.

In particular, there are often check boxes for the referee indicating how she or he ranks the importance of the topic of the paper, the relevance of the topic with respect to the journal and the readership, and the priority for publication.

You also don't necessarily know what's already in the hopper for this journal. They might have a backlog of extremely high quality papers, and are only accepting the best of the best. There are certainly enough papers that receive good reviews that don't get published -- just like there are tons of good grants that don't get funded.

So, there's a chance that your paper was an excellent paper, and just not a high priority for that particular journal at this particular time.

There's also the possibility that the referee is right about how applicable the work of Mr. X is, and you just don't see it. (No offense meant -- all we know about you are your initials, and that you say you've had a paper rejected). Maybe what the referee is trying to say is that Mr. X's work is solid enough, and even though you have a new approach, the conclusions drawn are similar enough that a revisit isn't high enough priority for publication in that journal. We have no way of knowing. If you feel this isn't on the mark, when you resubmit elsewhere, be sure to include the work of Mr. X in your discussion, and show the reader why your work is different from that work, and why your current efforts are important to consider.

The best advice I can offer is to depersonalize the process. You'll hear a lot of stuff during peer review, and it's real easy to let it get to you. Don't let it get to you. With experience, you'll learn what your referee pool wants to see, and you'll give it to them, and have an easier time pushing your papers through.

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