Asking this question for a friend (also motivated by this PhD thesis: novelty at the time of proposal but not submission). Field: Neuroscience.
Initially, when the paper was written up, there was no other paper that showed that XYZ could happen. It got rejected by the first journal (edited suggested submitting to more specialized journal). Now, at the second journal, the paper has been under review for a while (~7 months). All in all about a year or so has passed between when the work was done and the current peer review process.
Now that the reviews have come, I see that the reviewers say that there is no novelty in the paper because a recent paper (published two months ago) has shown the exact same thing. The editor has marked it as major revision and said that we should address the novelty issue.
My question is: is there anyway to argue that the novelty is supposedly missing because the journal took forever and that its not the authors fault? In general, is there anything to be done in case of getting scooped except for swallow your pride, do more work, submit to pre-print server next time, and hope for the best?