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I got this comment after more than 75 days of submission:

The considered problem in this manuscript is a practice in high mathematics and can not be a paper for publication in high-level journals.

What does it mean?

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    I would considered politely asking for a clarification. It is quite a cryptic message you've got there. – Gabriel Mar 16 at 12:46
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    I would suggest against asking for a clarification. This seems like the whole text of the review. The English is lacking, but the outcome is clear: your paper is (allegedly) way too simple for this journal. Right or wrong, that's their decision. You have little to gain by arguing. After such a comment, there isn't much that you can write that would make the editor reconsider. If they had doubts about the review, they would already have invited another reviewer. Move on, and submit it somewhere else. – Federico Poloni Mar 16 at 13:48
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    No, a paper need not be hard to grasp to be publishable. But it needs to deal with a problem of interest to the mathematical community, and whatever the reviewer meant precisely, it is clear that they do not believe the problem to be in this category. – Tobias Kildetoft Mar 16 at 14:16
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    Unfortunately, sometimes reviewers don't do a good job reviewing. Worse, sometimes a problem can be very tough and then seem trivial once one has seen the solution. My advice is to send the paper to another journal, probably a slightly weaker one than you saw previously, and make sure that the paper has a detailed section illustrating what prior work has been done on the problem and why people care. that should do a better job getting a reviewer to realize the paper is interesting and non-trivial. – JoshuaZ Mar 16 at 16:02
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    Could you give some examples of the journals that require affiliation? Because it sounds to me like you may have misunderstood that. – Tobias Kildetoft Mar 17 at 7:27
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My educated guess is that the reviewer is a native speaker of German and mistranslated some terms into English:

  • The German word Übung translates both to practice and to exercise.

  • In German universities, höhere Mathematik (literally: higher mathematics) was used as a label for mathematics courses for students of other scientific fields or engineering. At times, this only referred to the calculus courses (and not the linear-algebra courses). In particular, these courses usually focus on applying mathematical concepts and do not compare to courses for students of mathematics. (I wouldn’t be surprised if you can still find this label in use somewhere.)

If my guess is correct, the reviewers comment means something along the lines of:

This manuscript is just a (demonstrative) exercise in undergraduate mathematics and therefore not suitable for publication in a high-level journal.

So, your manuscript was rejected because it allegedly does not feature any new mathematics.

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    I came to a similar conclusion without thinking about it being a translation issue: the problem is (already) a practice in {some kind of} mathematics, therefore it's not suitable as a paper for a high-level journal (which only publishes novel things). – Mehrdad Mar 17 at 1:36
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    Incidentally the old name for calculus in Vietnamese is also "high-level math". During the Vietnam war we imported education from the USSR, so I wonder if this name also exists in Russian – Ooker Mar 17 at 5:41
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    Also, the German word "betrachtet" translates to "considered" and "regarded". The usage of the first translation seems a bit strange here. – rexkogitans Mar 17 at 9:42
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    This sentence would mean pretty much the same thing as your German intepretation if you translated it literally into Polish. It may be a bit of a leap, but I suppose the same is likely to be true for (most?) other central European languages. – tomasz Mar 17 at 13:59
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    @Ooker It is the same in most of Central and Eastern Europe ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Vladimir F Mar 17 at 17:49
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Seems to me that there's a missing word, and the correct comment might be something more like:

The considered problem in this manuscript is a practice in high school mathematics and can not be a paper for publication in high-level journals.

In other words, your manuscript is too simple to be published in an academic journal.

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    Even then, it is a strange formulation, but I suppose the one writing it might not be great at English ("a practice" does not really make sense here on its own). – Tobias Kildetoft Mar 16 at 7:26
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    "a practice" instead of "an exercise" could be poor translation from a different language – Thomas supports Monica Mar 16 at 7:54
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    Could be. Or maybe they mean something like "a (standard) practice in higher mathematics." Either way, a poorly written comment indicating that the paper's contribution is not sufficiently significant. – cag51 Mar 16 at 9:55
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    @cag51 This should be the answer. – Captain Emacs Mar 16 at 11:53
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    Unfortunately it means that the manuscript is rejected. The only thing you can do is being disappointed that it took almost three months to receive an answer (that in addition might be poorly written). – Alchimista Mar 16 at 13:40
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The considered problem in this manuscript is a practice in high mathematics...

In context, I would translate this into native English as:

In higher mathematics, the problem considered in this manuscript is just an exercise...

In other words, a routine calculation that has nothing new to say. Sorry.

  • Sorry that is completely wrong! – Sid Brown Mar 17 at 5:37
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    @SidBrown You're asking your question because you don't know what the review means. So I don't think you're in a position to declare that interpretations of it are "completely wrong!" – David Richerby Mar 17 at 21:59
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    @SidBrown this seems completely right to me. What strikes you as wrong about it? At least give some info instead of just making a statement like that – user94036 Mar 18 at 2:18
  • @tonyk because the problem the manuscript deals cannot be considered just an exercise. – Sid Brown Mar 18 at 5:16
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    @SidBrown With all due respect, it is clear from everything here that you have essentially no experience in publishing mathematical research. While this will not imply that your work is not good, it means that it has a lot less weight when you claim that it cannot be considered just an exercise, since this is a judgement that takes experience (though experience that is slightly tangential to actually publishing). You might be correct, but most reasonable interpretations of the reviewer message points to them disagreeing with you on this point. – Tobias Kildetoft Mar 18 at 9:52
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This seems really odd. Is this the journal you submitted to?

Why

  • It took 75 days to receive a 1 sentence answer in English that makes no sense.

  • Even if it was high-school level, any peer reviewer would be expected to write more than a single bad English sentence.

  • There should be multiple reviews, and the editor should have sent a single sentence review back for more details without being asked.

What to do

If you are a grad student, take this to your advisor. There is a good chance they can contact the editor, and will have more clout than you (unless you are a professor).

If you are affiliated with a university, ask others in the field about it. If there are multiple people with single sentence reviews, push back on the conference as a group.

At least reach out to the editor. Say

I'm not sure what this sentence means. This is the only review I received from my submission, and I'm not sure what it means or why my paper was rejected.

EDIT:

I thought it might be a desk rejection, but the message isn't boilerplate. I'm also not convinced the review meant "high-school".

Reasoning

  • If it was a high-school caliber entry, and the editor caught it, why not send a form letter or ignore it?

  • I have a difficult time seeing how "high-school math" can be anything but an insult. Why not just use words like stupid outright?

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    About the multiple reviews and just one sentence: It could be a desk rejection coming from the editor, so it may not even been sent to the reviewers. And if the paper is really bad, there's no point in writing a detailed rejection. – Massimo Ortolano Mar 16 at 16:36
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    If someone sends math at high school level to a journal, why should I as a reviewer write more than one line pointing that out? If it truly is an exercise in high school math, then there is nothing that will make it publishable, and it will be a waste of my time to try to point out things that might make it so. And it is very common for even very good math journals to have just a single reviewer. – Tobias Kildetoft Mar 16 at 17:15
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    Just because the journal uses English language, doesn't mean that English is necessarily the first language of any given reviewer. I also doubt that "high school" is the correct implication. I'm strongly thinking "higher mathematics". – Buffy Mar 16 at 20:16
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    @sevensevens yes that is the journal. – Sid Brown Mar 17 at 5:31
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    "High-school" isn't an insult: it's just placing the level of the work. High school students aren't stupid; the point is that school-level mathematics isn't research. – David Richerby Mar 17 at 21:58
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The editors are implying that what you have reported in your manuscript is already out there. It could be a theorem or a technique already in use by mathematicians, and therefore cannot be published as your research finding now.

  • Welcome to Academia.SE. As you can see, many other answers have already made this point -- it is considered better practice to upvote existing answers rather than posting a new, duplicate answer. – cag51 Mar 20 at 18:06
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The considered problem in this manuscript is a practice in high mathematics and can not be a paper for publication in high-level journals

Probably he means "high school". But, Gauss found many solutions in his high school years... Nobody exactly defined where "high school" ends. Because in my high school, I modelled Frank-Hertz experiment. With complicated enough approach this could become Plasma Physics article, enough for publication in any scientific grade journal.

Another probability is that they think subject lies in field of "high mathematics", and they understand it as "mathematical analysis". It exists in some high school programs, but generally considered university discipline, rather then school. Again, it is actually possible to create problem inside mathematical analysis and solve it, creating material of grade which is enough for publication anywhere.

Also you can always publish it in journals for PhD/high school students, which have lower bounds for inclusion of articles.

Not explaining what exactly in your result did not fit into bounds for publication is nonsense. Such uncompetent staff which doesn't even bother to explain the subject of article should be fired because most probably their PhD degree was bought (remember how french physicists had bought degrees in 90s and after great scandal they were both fired and their works disqualified).

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    @SidBrown Other than which one? You have not specified which one this was, and I am really not sure why it would matter that the journal is in Europe. But even with that somewhat unusual requirement, there are plenty to choose from. – Tobias Kildetoft Mar 16 at 13:53
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    Your comment about "high mathematics" and "mathematical analysis" show that you have no idea about what math research is about, so your advise is unlikely to be very helpful. – Tobias Kildetoft Mar 16 at 13:57
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    Why on earth would "high mathematics" mean "mathematical analysis"? Why that specific subbranch of mathematics and not one of the other ones? I mean, "higher category theory" at least contains the word "high". – Tobias Kildetoft Mar 16 at 14:03
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    @TobiasKildetoft: For whatever it’s worth, German universities used to split their basic mathematics curriculum (usually for students of other sciences or engineering AFAIK) into lineare Algebra (linear algebra) and höhere Mathematik, with the latter literally meaning higher mathematics and practically being (infinitesimal) calculus. The modern name for these courses and the German word for calculus is Analysis. So, with a few translation errors (that should not happen to a professional mathematician nowadays), you indeed get high mathematics = mathematical analysis. – Wrzlprmft Mar 16 at 16:08
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    @SidBrown From the rejection note you've already received, aiming for journals "with a great reputation" sounds like it's aiming much too high. – David Richerby Mar 16 at 17:45

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