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I submitted a paper to a journal in pure mathematics and got a rejection mail 5 month afterwards, which essentially said that having two referee reports available they couldn't publish it. So I read the reports and one said strongly recommend, whereas the other started with a very very harsh paragraph (everyone I asked said they wouldn't ever believe that a report that starts like that could end in any other result than rejection) but eventually also suggested not to reject the paper but doing a major revision (which essentially consisted of reducing the material presented and thereby changing its structure -- so very likely that the author is able to do a successful revision).

So my question is: Could you imagine that the editor might not have read the full report but stopped after the first paragraph? I have to admit that I couldn't blame him/her for that.

I asked the journal for clarification and after some back and forth they told me that I was rejected due to a long backlog but that I could do a revision and resubmit (if there is a reason why this would help with a full backlog that I don't see, please enlighten me also in this point). However, I could also imagine that they just gave me this explanation to stick with their decision, which would also be understandable to me.

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    What's the question? The only question mark, "Could you imagine that the editor might not have read the full report but stopped after the first paragraph?" seems already to be answered by the 3rd paragraph.
    – Allure
    Aug 8, 2020 at 7:29
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    We cannot answer as you don't have a question and you need to discuss this situation with the editor as he/she will be making the decision, which we cannot control.
    – Solar Mike
    Aug 8, 2020 at 7:40
  • Can I imagine that? Yes, but I can also imagine unicorns. There's a non-zero chance that this could have happened, but it seems rather unlikely, given that all journals systems I know clearly highlight the reviewer's recommendation by putting it before the textual review feedback. Aug 8, 2020 at 7:52
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    I edited the question to highlight that indeed the part with a question mark is my question. I don't think that it is answered by my third paragraph. If I'd made such a mistake and wanted to stick with my decision (which is understandable -- you don't want to be known as a journal where it's always worth to argue) I would also choose such a generic reason. Also, it's not my intention to change the decision, I accept it but want to understand such processes better since I'm a young researcher and don't have much experience with this (of course I also already got my advisors opinion in this). Aug 8, 2020 at 8:02
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    Editors can be lazy, busy, or just wrong. They also have the authority to override reviewer decisions in some cases. In your case, they didn't even seem to do that as one reviewer was pretty harsh. It could be the case that the reviewer wrote a review that effectively rejects your paper but they were being too forgiving in the editor's opinion, who ultimately chose to reject.
    – Spark
    Sep 7, 2020 at 12:48

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A major revision is similar to a resubmit. So, the editor has made a reasonable decision.

To answer your question: Yes, but my imagination only requires the possible existence of such an editor, so that answer isn't interesting.

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