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After 3 weeks from submission, I recieved the below email from the editor in chief of an applied math journal, asking whether I would consider changing my manuscript from full length article to a letter/short article, giving primary reason that the article length is short, so it would suit a short article/letter, and mentioning that the journal publishes short articles of high quality along with full length articles in all regular issues. I was asked to give my decison. I had a look at the letters/short articles of that journal from previous issues and found that they are no different, except in length. So I am not understanding the difference.

I am not able to interpret, whether I have been strongly adviced by editor, and that I better go with it. The editor already had that article with him for 3 weeks, so he might have had a look at it and might be giving strong advice. I also don't fully understand the difference between both modes of publishing. Do these two have different academic values?

Email:


Dear Mr. XXXX,

I am writing to ask if you would consider to change your submission, XXXX, to a Letter from a Full Length Article. The reason for my request is based on the short length of you manuscript. XXXX Journal publishes short papers of high quality. Please let me know of your decision. The official review process will not proceed until we hear from you. Thank you.

Kind regards,

XXXX

Editor-in-Chief

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    Does these two have a different academic value? – user102868 Feb 20 at 11:25
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    It could be even a good news but I am from a different field. One in which a short letter is well considered and more prone to be desk rejected. So in this case you are a step further towards a successful development. ...But again not sure in maths – Alchimista Feb 21 at 10:45
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+25

In my experience, there is no real difference between "full" articles and "short" articles except for length.

Many journals, especially more recent online-only ones, do not bother with this distinction at all. An article is simply as short or as long as the article turns out to be. Even with journals that do make the distinction, it often has little impact of the de facto length of the material once supplementary material is included---all that is affected is the fraction of the published "iceberg" that is "above water" in the main text. The peer review process is generally the same, and the perceived value the same, just simply some are shorter than others.

In terms of visibility and citations, short articles are typically just as visible (as you have noticed). I have never seen a citation attempt to distinguish between short and full articles, and most citation formats have no way that one could do so. For those who are affected by publication statistics (e.g., impact factor), that's not affected either: these are calculated by journal, not by article category within a journal.

In short: some things are just shorter than others, and that has little effect on their significance. The editor thinks your article will work better in "short" than "long" format, so take their offer or risk rejection pointlessly.

  • Thanks for the answer.Same question I posted as a comment to Allure's answer. – user102868 Feb 22 at 14:14
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    Assuming your mean this: "I wonder why would the editor hold the review process (as he mentions), until he hears my decision?" Your response does affect how the article will be considered by the reviewers and how it will be revised. If it's "short", then they'll not be tempted to pick on your for its length. Complementarily, you won't be able to address revision requests by adding in lots of new material. – jakebeal Feb 22 at 16:39
  • But then why doesn't the editor simply say "I think your manuscript can be written shorter and more succinct. Can you do that?"? – Ooker Feb 23 at 13:26
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From the author's point of view there isn't much difference between short letters and full-length articles, aside from length. Some of the differences not mentioned yet are:

  • The journal might group its letters together and its full-length articles together. For example its website might have a "letters" section and an "article" section; its print issues might have the letters first then the articles.
  • Some small administrative changes that you'll never notice unless someone points them out to you, for example the article ID might change. One publisher I worked at had this code where articles with ID 20 are letters, ID 30 are reviews, ID 50 are research articles, etc. If I'm not mistaken this also changes the digits in the DOI.
  • It's possible the production process is different, with letters being on a fast track since they're shorter and so quicker to process.

These are minor differences though. Since the practical differences are so few I'd just accept the editor-in-chief's suggestion - no reason not to.

  • Thanks for the answer. I wonder why would the editor hold the review process (as he mentions), until he hears my decision? – user102868 Feb 22 at 14:14
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    @user102868 An obvious reason: he wants to make sure you're happy with it potentially being published as a letter before sending it to his reviewers. If he doesn't seek your consent at this stage, and only tells you what's happened after it's been reviewed, there's a chance you'll say "I don't want that, so I'm withdrawing my paper", and then his reviewers' time will have been wasted. It keeps everyone happy if your consent is sought at each stage. I think it's standard practice. – Billy Feb 22 at 14:38
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    @user102868 I think Billy is correct. It's also possible the review process is different for letters & articles, e.g. the reviewer instructions are different. – Allure Feb 22 at 19:57
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    @user102868 it also may be that there are specific criteria for a "Letter" (such as page length) that your paper currently does not meet - for example, it might be one page too long to fit the letter requirements. Agreeing to publish it as a letter implies agreeing to restructure the paper to fit in these constraints, and that would need to be done before the review process. – Peteris Feb 22 at 23:55
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I speculate that the editor wants to accept, but only as a letter/short article, rather than a full length article. I consider declining the editor's offer as a path to rejection. But, I might be wrong...

You could try to solicit more information, e.g., rather than responding, you could give the editor a call, which might result in them providing more details that will help you make a decision.

You could propose a counter-offer, e.g., suggest extending the article, since "[the editor's] request is based on the short length of you manuscript" (that might be calling the editor's bluff), which might also result in more information to make a decision.

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    I answered the question before it was edited (by a third party) to ask something different. – user2768 Feb 20 at 12:40
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If you don't have to do any extra work, I would say fine, call it whatever you want. (It's not like your CV or h-index or Google Scholar will have a purple brand on the letter articles.) If it requires extra work (like further cutting, reformatting, etc., I would tell the editor to pack sand...and be prepared to go elsewhere if he insists.)

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A letter is to a particular party/individual/group if you will.

A short article could be a continuation of a news report/release/update.

A long article would be a presentation, body, and closing from beginning to end.

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    Your answer seems to stem from common definition of those words in regular media or common language. Most of what you write is wrong for academic publications. – Wrzlprmft Feb 24 at 10:21

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