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I've submitted a short paper to a well-known cs journal. It got rejected after two years with the below one para explanation. While I admit that the submission was not strong, I feel cheated because of waiting for two years for this explanation (no full report was made).

In the paper, the author shows that NP-completeness for [...]. The proofs are very basic and standard. The results are reasonable, so it may be acceptable if this paper was written in 1990s. However, as far as I know, such a kind of paper is obsolete nowadays. Since 2000s, among such papers, few papers are acceptable for [...] only when there are some extra value to be published. For example, they solve big open question, or the NP-completeness has very important influence to the other research. From this viewpoint, this paper is not strong enough for the recent [...]. So my recommendation is reject.

What shall I do? I think this situation is unacceptable, let me know if you disagree.

I've already complained of course to the editor upon receipt of the report, but I got no answer.

ps. Btw, imo the given journal still publishes NP-completeness proofs regularly, that's why I've chosen it for my result.

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    Hard to judge from a distance. Hard to fight. Even you agree it wasn't "strong". The delay may be explainable or not. Maybe just submit it elsewhere. Better to strengthen it if possible. In future, don't wait so long before asking the editor about a paper's status. – Buffy Oct 26 '19 at 11:41
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    I didn't wait that long, I've inquired about the paper before, and they've replied that it's under review. – domotorp Oct 26 '19 at 11:56
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    Weak papers have a hard time finding reviewers, even if the journal tries hard. Maybe a desk rejection would have been in place, with that remark that no reviewers were found. But it may be a sign of a weakness in the paper that it took so long. Such a paper should anyway not form the core part of one's portfolio and not a critical path in terms of publication. – Captain Emacs Oct 26 '19 at 21:26
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    Would you have preferred a quick desk rejection? – Alexander Woo Oct 26 '19 at 21:41
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    You don't seem to really have a question here, aside from asking if we agree that this situation is "unacceptable". There is literally nothing you can do besides accept this situation. – Morgan Rodgers Oct 26 '19 at 23:55
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You seem to mix two different aspects: Your (understandable) disappointment about the response and the long time it took to get the response.

You cannot really complain about the response itself because it generally seems to be rational and the reason for the rejection is not the long time it took. Right now you can only try to use the helpful aspects in the response to improve your manuscript.

On the other hand, you should complain about the time it took. Two years is indeed inacceptable. If you will get no reply, there is very little you can do, I'm afraid. It is probably best to look for an alternative journal.

My advice for the future: Do not submit to the journal again, but count it as an important experience: next time, you could ask in regular intervals (not too short or long, let's say every three months), and also give the process a maximum timeframe.

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    And tell others in your field about the shitty journal! – Thomas Oct 26 '19 at 12:46
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    I did ask at regular intervals. – domotorp Oct 26 '19 at 18:28
  • What is gained by complaining about the response time? – Morgan Rodgers Oct 26 '19 at 21:36
  • Morgan Rodgers, giving feedback might contribute to improvement in response time in the future, and others might benefit from it. Therefore I think it is important. It will most likely not help in the OP's case, though. – Snijderfrey Oct 27 '19 at 0:33
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My guess is the manuscript spent two years going from one potential reviewer to the next, as each sat on it a while then finally turned the review request down. There may not be much you can learn from this except that perhaps you can try harder to make the paper clearer to read so reviewers won't be as reluctant to take a look. Perhaps break things up and put the really dense stuff in appendices. Come up with a way to make a figure to describe the idea if possible.

As for the review, it looks like the dreaded "significance" criticism. I.e. they find the results to be correct, novel, and relevant, but not (in their personal opinion) sufficiently important for publication. Of course every researcher likes to think this about most every other researcher. E.g. my research direction will change the world, while others' are just an over-hyped rehashing of old ideas. It is only a single data point so hard to be sure how commen the reviewers opinion would be regarding your result. But what you can do is try harder to "market" the result in the abstract and intro, ideally with citations supporting your claims of significance. Then the next reviewer has to basically argue directly against your citations, rather than just handing this stock criticism out.

At this point though, I'd say just make a quick pass to address the issue of significance a bit more, then move on to a new journal to get a second opinion.

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