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Recently I received a rejection by the editor of SCI Expanded journal (which I consider to be a legitimate journal):

The reviewer's comments (just a few days after I submitted the manuscript):

Sorry, this paper lacks novelty, is not well written, and will not be considered due to overwhelming submissions to X journal (SCI Expanded journal). Suggest to try: (gives me a URL to a journal listed in Beall's List of predatory journals).

(I have removed the names of the journals above. I have personally checked https://beallslist.net/ and confirmed that the suggested journal falls inside the Original Beall's List. The suggested journal comes with a publication fee of 1500 euros for each article.)

I am quite new to academia. Is the above considered normal practice for a reputable journal listed in the Science Citation Index (Expanded)?

Any advice of what I can do?


Update:

I found that a member of the editorial board of the SCI Expanded journal, is also in the editorial board of the Beall's list journal.

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    The reviewer may have a conflict of interest. Use caution. There are other legitimate journals you can try. – Buffy Mar 16 at 15:47
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    What @Buffy said, but also: There are some borderline cases on at least some versions of Beall's list (like MDPI and Hindawi) that engage in some bad practices but are not widely known to do so (e.g., if you only interact with them as a reader, you'll just think of them as glorified preprint services, unaware of APCs). The referee might be meaning well. – darij grinberg Mar 16 at 15:51
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    Hmmm. I wonder how influential that person was in the rejection. Perhaps it was really improper. – Buffy Mar 16 at 15:57
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    If the person (reviewer or editor) knew that the journal being suggested was predatory, then I consider the suggestion to be unethical behavior. – Andreas Blass Mar 16 at 17:15
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    If the reviewer thinks the paper is "not well written", what reason could there be for recommending submission anywhere without first improving it? – chrylis -cautiouslyoptimistic- Mar 17 at 4:26
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I am quite new to academia, is the above considered normal practice

No. This is abnormal and unacceptable for a reviewer or editor to suggest this.

Any advice of what I can do?

If the journal you submitted to really is legitimate, contact the editor and escalate this. Simply point out that the review you received pointed you to a predatory journal, and ask if the editor can reach out to the reviewer to see if this was a mistake.

Update: I found that a member of the editorial board of the SCIE journal, is also in the editorial board of the Beall's list journal.

This is a red flag, and the review you received is another red flag. These red flags suggest that the journal you submitted to is not reputable. I would check with online journal ratings, impact factor, etc. to make sure you are not already submitting to a very low-quality journal (even if it is not predatory).

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    I'm not sure about the final paragraph here, but the other advice is sound. The editor needs to know. If this reviewer was especially influential in the rejection, perhaps the result can be overturned, though another review might be needed. I'd give the editor a bit more benefit of the doubt without knowing more, though. – Buffy Mar 16 at 15:59
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    Unluckily, I just researched that the founding editor of the SCI journal is precisely the same guy also in the editorial board of the Beall’s list journal... I think there should be no hope for me for appealing. (I suspect the “reviewer” in my case was just the above-mentioned editor himself.) I will just try another journal. Thanks! – yoyostein Mar 16 at 16:05
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    That seems to seal the fate of that journal. Yes, find a better alternative. Look here for updates to Beall's original list. academia.stackexchange.com/questions/83764/… Maybe you were lucky to be rejected. – Buffy Mar 16 at 16:11
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    @Buffy "Maybe you were lucky to be rejected." - this made my day. Great quote. – Captain Emacs Mar 16 at 18:45
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    "I found that a member of the editorial board of the SCIE journal, is also in the editorial board of the Beall's list journal." This means nothing. Plenty of people have no idea they are on the board of a predatory journal, because nobody has told them. – Anonymous Physicist Mar 17 at 7:16
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First: it's likely you mistook the decision - it's not a reviewer's comment, it's the editor's comments, and they are desk rejecting your manuscript. In this case it is decently common for the editor to suggest another journal (especially if it's published by the same publisher). I would not find it a red flag if they did - it is after all only a suggestion which you are under no obligation to follow.

You write that the editor recommended a journal on Beall's list, but remember that Beall's list is not gospel, especially since it is now defunct and not being updated. There is a real chance that the editor does not consider the journal predatory, or even that the journal isn't predatory in the first place. The editor is very unlikely to have anything to gain if you submit to a predatory journal either - the other journal might not even know your paper has been referred.

If you do not want to submit to that journal (especially since it is open access with an APC), simply ignore the editor's suggestion and submit your paper elsewhere.

I found that a member of the editorial board of the SCIE journal, is also in the editorial board of the Beall's list journal.

This doesn't mean anything. It is conceivable that a reputable academic will elect to serve on the editorial board of a "predatory" journal (inverted commas because what is predatory isn't well-defined). Or it could be that the predatory journal is simply listing the editor's name without their consent. Either way, this doesn't say anything about the SCIE journal.

Even if this editorial board member is the editor who rejected your paper, it's still possible they are be acting with completely benign intentions (if your colleague told you their paper's been rejected from X journal and you knew of journal Y which would consider it, would you suggest it?). Bear in mind that if they are editorial board members of both journal they would have a pretty good idea of the standards of the other journal, and that your paper meets those standards.

I would take the fact that the journal is indexed by the SCIE as a very strong sign that the journal is reputable (anyone who's ever tried to get a new journal into the SCIE will be able to vouch for how difficult this can be).

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    Whichever list the journal being recommended is or isn't on, it has a publication fee, which is some kind of predatory already. – Misha Lavrov Mar 17 at 0:08
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    @MishaLavrov if you believe that, almost all open access journals are predatory. – Allure Mar 17 at 1:09
  • Thanks for your detailed answer and valid points. I totally agree that the SCIE journal is reputable, that’s why I was quite shocked at the reviewer/editor recommending a Beall’s list journal with 1500 Euro APC. – yoyostein Mar 17 at 7:39
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    @yoyostein 1500 EUR is not that high - compare e.g. Springer's average APC (springernature.com/gp/open-research/journals-books/journals), which is around 1700 EUR. – Allure Mar 17 at 7:50
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    Yes, perfectly reputable journals can ask quite high fees; for more examples than @Allure's, ACM asks 1700$, Cambridge University Press often asks >$3000 (for instance for JFP). And all open access publishers are somewhat in a conflict of interests. But not all act on it. – Blaisorblade Mar 17 at 8:51
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This answer is on point. I will only add that it is common in some fields for editors to make such a suggestion; in such cases they offer to transfer the manuscript to another journal by the same publisher.

This practice is followed by a very reputable journal in my field of materials science/engineering. The second journal is new, doesn't even have an impact factor yet, but researchers appear to welcome this option, because it is affiliated to the primary, reputed journal.

The reason for adding this is that such practices are not always unethical; use your caution and check the referred journal. However, ensure that it is an actual transfer that is being proposed, not just a suggestion to resubmit (without the mechanism of carrying the submission/review history).

In the present case, I concur that you should report this reviewer to the editor.

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  • Thanks. It is a suggestion to resubmit rather than an actual transfer. Also, after googling I realize the editor himself (likely to be also the reviewer) is also the person in the editorial board of the Beall’s list journal. Is there any higher authority that I can report to (since the person in question is suspected to be the editor)? – yoyostein Mar 17 at 1:40
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    @yoyostein You can tell the editor-in-chief or publisher of the SCIE journal. But phrase it along the lines of "I'm concerned about ..." rather than being outright accusatory unless you are sure that other journal is a predatory one (cf Allure's answer). – Kimball Mar 17 at 14:38
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I don't think it's unusual for a reviewer to suggest another journal if they are recommending rejection for the reason of "not strong enough for this journal". I try to do this myself; sometimes I receive an article to review that strongly suggests the author is not very familiar with the relative strengths of journals in the field, so this comment may be helpful.

There are other worrying signs in this case, though. It is very unusual for a review to come back so quickly (in fact it would be surprising that the submission has even reached a reviewer by this point), and the editor doesn't seem concerned about the perfunctory nature of the review. One might even start to wonder whether there really was a "reviewer". Of course the fact that the journal is on Beale's list may be a legitimate mistake or an historical artefact, but with these other factors I would be suspicious about both journals.

I wouldn't want to publish in the original journal any longer. Just resubmit to another journal of your own selection, and count yourself fortunate not to have lost more than a few days.

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    This wasn't an unexpectedly quick accept decision - it was an unexpectedly quick reject decision. Most likely, it was a desk rejection. – Allure Mar 17 at 9:22
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    @Allure OP said these were the reviewer's comments, not the editor's., meaning that the journal is claiming that it's not a desk rejection. Of course, as I suggested above, one might be sceptical about this claim. – Especially Lime Mar 17 at 9:26
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    It actually reads like a desk rejection. No reviewer could know that the journal's receiving an overwhelming number of submissions. – Allure Mar 17 at 9:26
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    @Allure that's exactly the point I'm making in my answer. If it sounds like a desk rejection but the journal is pretending it's something else, avoid them! – Especially Lime Mar 17 at 9:29
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First, given the wording, this is the editor desk-rejecting your paper, and you are confused because you are new to all that. If the editor somehow implied the reviewer wrote that, ignore his recommendation and run away, submitting elsewhere. Otherwise, consider that if the paper is in fact as weak as the editor claims it is, you are likely to be unable to publish in any much better journal. This is hard for you to judge - we all have blind spots for our own work.

You can submit to that journal and check the review process there by yourself. If it seems suspiciously short with few or no relevant comments regarding contents of your manuscript, this journal is indeed predatory and will publish whatever crap anyone sends. Then, you can either opt to publish to get it over with, or let them know you changed your mind and that you will publish elsewhere because you were unsatisfied with their review process. Sure, you will waste some time to get the response, but you can simply keep working on other stuff while you wait for that response.

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    "editor desk-rejecting your paper" That is not my interpretation of the question. It is possible the editor assigned the paper to themselves to review. Or to a friend. – Anonymous Physicist Mar 18 at 9:07

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