The editor of a journal asked me “Please confirm the title of XXX XX, Mr. or Dr.?” His title is Mr., as the manuscript was written by two students alone, without a supervisor or anyone with the title Dr.

I replied with this information to the editor’s email. After 10 minutes I got a kind email saying that the manuscript had been rejected by the editor. So did the title of the authors impact the editor’s decision? Does there have to be a professor or someone with the title Dr. on the manuscript?

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    Was it the same person asking about the title as well as rejecting the manuscript? – Allure Mar 25 at 7:23
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    Basically a duplicate of: academia.stackexchange.com/q/145826/72855 – Solar Mike Mar 25 at 7:43
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    My best guess is that the two events are unrelated and the timing was just a coincidence. – Buffy Mar 25 at 12:59
  • @Frugat Neither did Kepler held a PhD in astronomy when publishing the three laws, nor Mendel stopped working because it took time until his publication about peas was appreciated fully. – Buttonwood Mar 25 at 13:51
  • Which field are you in, by the way? I miss a tag with it. – Oleg Lobachev Mar 25 at 15:50

There is unlikely to be a written rule stating the requirement of a PhD holder in the journal policy. There are two possible explanations for this action:

(1) The editor felt the need to desk-reject based on reasons other than author qualification (relevance to journal for instance), and simply asked for the title so that the rejection mail would address the authors appropriately. What has the editor mentioned as reason for rejection? Most likely it is one of the boilerplate emails ("high demand"/"high submission rate" based), which is broad enough to cover almost any reason. Has the editor suggested submission to any other journal? (Why are you calling this Journal 'B'?)

(2) Given that you are both students (and are identified by your institution), the editor may suspect malpractice of some sort since no faculty member is involved. In this situation, the editor has to walk a fine line between risking offending the author and potentially permitting malpractice. If you suspect this, you could always write back, politely requesting the reason for a desk-reject. Please emphasize that you are not challenging the decision, but are rather seeking to improve your work for future submission.

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    Possibility 3: the journal maintains a database of people (e.g. to use as reviewers/spam in the future) and 'title' is a required field for that. The decision to reject is entirely independent. – avid Mar 25 at 7:41
  • 1.1 Reason for rejection is Submissions sent for peer-review are selected on the basis of discipline, novelty and general significance, in addition to the usual criteria for publication in scholarly journals. Therefore, our decision is not necessarily a reflection of the quality of your work.. So how can editor evaluate the approach is novel or not? are they familiar with all special section topics? (I mean for example Software Security majored editor are able to decide Neural Network-based manuscript?) 1.2 No – Furqat Mar 25 at 8:38
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    2. Our mail addresses were not institutional. Editor/`s reply: the emails for all authors are expected to use the institutional emails. In addition, all authors should provide their CVs if possible. If the authors are students, they should indicate which author is the student's supervisor, and provide the supervisor's personal homepage and a list of published articles.. So without PhD holder will be hard to accept manuscript? – Furqat Mar 25 at 8:46
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    I disagree with (2) here. Especially the first sentence. Rejecting because of a "suspicion" in such a case would be malpractice. Some institutions encourage students to write. Some encourage them to work together. Some fields don't "require" that the advisor be a co-author. There is nothing in the question that suggests any impropriety. – Buffy Mar 25 at 13:02
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    @Buffy- I agree in a general sense, and indeed, I'm yet to find a written requirement anywhere that the advisor needs to be a co-author. Nevertheless, the suspicion is real, and in this case, the editor's reply (see comment above- they want the supervisor to be an author!) hints at the same. We'll probably never know, and your suggestion of coincidence is definitely possible. I (without basis) am inclined to consider it improbable , given the information available. – AppliedAcademic Mar 25 at 13:15

If a journal wanted to impose such a rule they would most likely state it plainly. But I think that is very unlikely. It isn't the qualifications of the authors of a paper that make it important, but what the paper actually has to offer. Of course, editors like to know that the authors know what they are writing about, but that is the job of the reviewers to determine and normally reviewers will spend more time with the paper than with the credentials of its authors.

In fact, a paper by an independent researcher without an academic credential might be especially "interesting" if the arguments and conclusions are sound. It might even introduce new ideas into a field. When Einstein did his early work he wasn't well respected by the established intelligentsia of the day. That only came later.

And on the other side, a paper by a brilliant and credentialed researcher that seems to spout nonsense can cause quite a stir.

But, I suspect that in this case, there is some flaw in the paper that the editor noticed independent of its authors. Maybe it was just a poor fit for the journal, or even for the editor's current needs.

One further thought. A restriction on who can publish in a journal, such as requiring a doctorate, would, over time, have a pernicious effect, lowering the quality of the journal. It is the restriction itself, actually any sort of restriction, that leads to some high quality papers not being submitted at all and other, lower quality, ones filling any gaps. The effect would be small, but additive over time.

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