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I am an early career researcher from India. I had earned a PhD from a top European University four years ago and then I moved to my home country early this year. I have been working on a century old problem, in the area of dielectrics, almost past five years. I believed that I had finally solved the problem and hence wrote the manuscript and submitted it to the prestigious APS journal, Physical Review Letters (PRL), as a single author. The manuscript has undergone three rounds of review and in the final round, number of reviewers were increased to six. Three of them recommended the manuscript for PRL, other two because of the specialised content of the manuscript recommended it for the journal, Physical Review E (PRE), which is another good journal from the APS family. The sixth reviewer rejected the paper without giving any reason.

I was elated to see the reviewers comments and almost majority of them were in my favour. It would have been great for my career if as a single author I had published the manuscript in the PRL. However, the editor said that the manuscript warrants publication but PRL may not be a good venue for it. He recommended Physical Review Research (PRR), a new open access journal from the APS family. I had then resubmitted the paper to PRR, but they rejected the paper claiming that it does not fit into their journal. I then transferred the paper to the PRE and explained the history of the manuscript in my cover letter. However the editors of PRE rejected the paper citing that a manuscript that has been rejected by PRL and PRR, cannot be published in the PRE, though the editor suggested that I could make an appeal against their decision. If I do, an editorial committee will be set up to look into the matter.

After I had uploaded the paper on Arxiv, I had received emails from well known researchers of the field praising my work. I am not sure what is wrong? My theory predicts experimental observations quite well. This has been almost heart-breaking for me. Why they do not want to publish it?

In the last two weeks, I have received two emails from an Editor of an open access journal, Condensed Matter, MDPI publisher. I had not contacted them at all, I believed someone informed them about my paper, or they themselves found it on Arxiv. The editor has offered me to publish the paper without any publication charges. Normally, they charge around 1500 USD as article processing charge (APC). The journal "Condensed Matter" is indexed by ESCI (since 2017) and Scopus (since 2020). Its a new journal (2016), and has published only 265 papers so far in last 4 years. The editorial board has got Profs from Universities of British Columbia, Oxford, Max Planck, MIT, Rome, Penn State, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, Minnesota, Waterloo, Los Alamos. But, they have not released the impact factor yet.

So which direction I should go?

Please share your opinion.

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    I would not publish with MDPI. They are dodgy. If it's a century problem, why can't you go to journals such as Nature or Science? – Prof. Santa Claus Nov 12 '20 at 4:40
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    Tried Nature. They said, it is too specialized and technical for them. – Vikash Nov 12 '20 at 4:45
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    "However the editors of PRE rejected the paper citing that a manuscript that has been rejected by PRL and PRR, cannot be published in the PRE" Taking into account what the other editors recommended, this seems like a bogus reason. They have said you can appeal, so what's the downside of doing just that? Are you under time pressure? – Roland Nov 12 '20 at 7:12
  • Actually I have been frustrated by how editors are dealing with my manuscript. It has been more than six months in the review process. I am time bound too. I guess my only fault was to directly criticise a famous researcher who seems to be the sixth reviewer. I had put his name as a potential reviewer. He had tried to collaborate with me which i had politely declined. Also I am not sure what exactly to write in my appeal? – Vikash Nov 12 '20 at 7:17
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    MDPI physics journals are all low-ranked. – Anonymous Physicist Nov 12 '20 at 7:25
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Usually appeals are not a good idea, but in this case it might be your best choice. It is very odd for an editor to "suggest" appeal.

https://journals.aps.org/authors/editorial-appeal-procedures

Appeals can only be on the basis of procedure (not science!). The procedure says decisions are based on review by referees. Five of six referees said the paper should be published in a physical review journal. Therefore at least one of the three rejections is in error.

If your appeal is not successful, find a good journal elsewhere to try.

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    Instead of a new answer I comment here. It looks indeed that this ms should be published in a paper belonging to Phys Rev family. The point is to whom / which journal the appeal (a big step) should be made to. The decision of PRL editor seems to be fine, the decision made by the PRE seems unusual as for the two journals would have to be identical. Also an Editor suggesting an appeal is unusual... Unless you were told as a mere information about your "rights". Isn't there a good physics journal beside PRL? I would do a totally new submission, in the latter case. – Alchimista Nov 12 '20 at 10:06
  • I am going to make an appeal today. I will keep you updated. – Vikash Nov 12 '20 at 11:19
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SciPost Physics would be an alternative: good quality, open access, free to publish. However, you might first want to check if your subfield is adequately represented in their editorial college: https://scipost.org/colleges/physics

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