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I submitted a paper to an IEEE journal. The editor provided the following review:

Based on the enclosed set of reviews this manuscript is not acceptable for publication in its current form, but may be acceptable after being thoroughly reworked. If you choose to resubmit, please send the reworked manuscript no later than 07-Mar-2019, but preferably as soon as possible. The sooner we receive the resubmission, the better the likelihood that we can utilize the same editor and reviewers. If an extension is needed for any reason, please contact ... with an expected date for the resubmission. Your resubmitted manuscript will require an additional full round of review, but as stated above, we will make every effort to utilize the previous reviewers if possible. Please be sure to mention the original paper number and include a point-by-point response to the reviewer comments in your cover letter and/or File Upload section.

Does that mean "Reject" or "Major Revision"? What is the difference between this decision and reject? If I decide to submit the paper to another journal, should I withdraw the paper from the first journal?

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    "this manuscript is not acceptable for publication in its current form, but may be acceptable after being thoroughly reworked" seems pretty clear, no? – Thomas Jan 27 at 18:25
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    yes, this is clear but I cannot understand why this decision says: revise and resubmit? I think R&R means major revision. So, it does not need to withdraw before submitting to another journal? – Atena Jan 27 at 18:30
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    The chances are high that any other good journal will also reject it... So, improve it and re-submit - they don't say how many times an article had to re-submit when they publish... – Solar Mike Jan 27 at 18:45
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    I do not know whether you have to withdraw before submitting elsewhere, but why not just reply to the editor "thank you for letting me know, I will submit elsewhere"? Though if the reviewers' suggestions have merit, I would go through the R&R process; no point in cutting corners this late in the process. – cag51 Jan 27 at 18:47
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    Seems a more accurate title would be 'Does a journal have any rights to a paper after sending "reject (revise and resubmit)" to the authors?' – Ben Voigt Jan 27 at 23:53
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Revise and resubmit means exactly what it says: if you revise the manuscript and resubmit it, we will look at it again (hopefully with the same editor and reviewers, but not necessarily). Typically this means the required revisions are substantial enough that it will go to reviewers again.

Reject means we do not want to see the manuscript again.

More recently reject and resubmit has become a thing. It is like a revise and resubmit, but the journal is going to count the manuscript as a new submission so their rejection rates go up and the time to final decision goes down. Sometimes they try and use the same editor and reviewers and ask for a rebuttal letter, just like a revise and resubmit. Other times it is on you and they treat it like a new submission.

This is clearly a revise and resubmit. If you wish to not revise and resubmit you can just submit it to another journal without telling them anything, but it would be polite to tell them that you are not going to resubmit the manuscript. That way they can close out the paperwork on their end. As for concerns about double submission, once a decision, apart from acceptance, is made, you can do whatever you want.

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    I agree with most of your points. However, in my experience, it all depends on the actual reviewer comments. I have seen reject and resubmit decisions with actual minor comments from the reviewers that could be very easily adressed but I have also seen the same decision with comments that are very difficult (or nearly impossible) to address. – CTNT Jan 27 at 19:48
  • Thanks, dear @StrongBad. So If I decide to submit my paper to another journal, it is not necessary to withdraw it. Right? – Atena Jan 28 at 9:26
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    @Atena it is not necessary, but why wuoldn't you just send them a quick email. If you are planning on trying to submit it someplace else and if that goes badly then resubmit it to the first journal, that is fishy. – StrongBad Jan 28 at 19:54
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It means that you are permitted to resubmit rather than forbidden to do so. The only difference is that when you resubmit it will be treated as a new submission and start over at the beginning of the process, likely with new reviewers.

But they are also warning you that only a major reworking will be acceptable. Hopefully the reviewers will point you in the direction that might lead to success.

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    Note that whether new reviewers are sought is journal dependent. On at least some journals this seems only to artificially minimize published acceptance times, with the rest of the process identical. – origimbo Jan 27 at 19:38
  • From the letter, it seems like they are very specifically not treating it as a new submission, starting the process over from the beginning, or using new reviewers in this case – cag51 Jan 28 at 5:30

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