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I just received the following comment from an Elsevier editor "The manuscript does not reach the required quality standard of this journal.". To my mind say just that or nothing is pretty much the same considering the minimum requirements for data openness and transparency.

there is already a good explanation of the submission process here: what does the typical workflow of a journal look like However, as an automated process, is prone to flaws as well as to improvements. And does not explain in detail the received comment stated above.

Any thoughts on deciphering the comment stated above are greatly appreciated.

thank you

EDIT: When I posted this question I forgot to add an essential and relevant fact to this conversion, which is: many and many scientific researchers don't have the opportunity to develop their research works in a team or even do it collaboratively. They have to rely on themselves to present their findings and defend their thesis. And everyone here is acquainted with the syndrome of "tunnel effect" when writing. So having someone, that can give a small contribution to unlocking someone else research writing, I see as a welcoming behavior that can only benefit the scientific community at the individual level.

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    You can certainly answer them with a polite message, asking which particular quality standards the manuscript does not meet. – lighthouse keeper Feb 16 at 12:53
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    This is almost certainly just a canned response, no need to decipher the specific text, just to recognize that this is a desk rejection. – Bryan Krause Feb 16 at 18:55
  • To me, it can also be an automated response, from an automated pre-selection process. And if that is the case, the email needs to state that unequivocally. – Miguel Silva - Tech Guy Feb 17 at 8:30
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    I agree that the linked question (workflow) is not a duplicate to this question. However, the current version is too broad and depends on individual journals. Every journal has its own standard and acceptance criteria. The canned message is just its own polite way to say "Sorry, your manuscript is not good enough to be accepted." (Sorry, no intent to offend you here). There is already a good answer below. You can use it to improve the manuscript and then submit to another journal. Good luck ! (I have the similar experience. I know the feeling.) – scaaahu Feb 17 at 9:16
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The answer you received indicates that your paper was a "desk rejection". The editor did not send out your paper for review as she/he believes that your paper has no chance of getting accepted.

Journals accept some papers and reject others. To save the time of reviewers, editors of a journal often have a look at a paper and gauge its chance of acceptance before sending it out for a review. A few aspects that they look for are:

  • Is the grammar/spelling sufficiently good? It does not have to be perfect for the submitted version, but reasonably good. Papers for which the grammar obstructs the understandability of the content should be fixed first before doing a proper review.
  • Is the contribution as stated in the paper substantial enough for paper acceptance in this journal even it the reviewers find that the paper is 100% correct and publishable? If the claimed contribution is not perceived to be on par with the other published papers in the journal, the paper won't make it in, and hence there is - again - no reason to send this out for review.
  • Does the paper overall appear to have substantial flaws? For instance, are non-trivial claims not accompanied by proofs, does the paper structure follow the conventions of the field, etc.?
  • Does the appearance of the paper match one of a paper from an established author? Do the figures look roughly professional, is there a change in font in the middle of the text, etc.?

If your paper falls short on one of these aspects (and a few others that I most likely have forgotten), you are likely to get a desk rejection. Note that it ultimately saves you time, as you get the answer earlier in this way. However, the editor could have been a bit more precise w.r.t. what exactly was wrong. The normal course of action in such a case is to ask your advisor for advice if you have one.

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    Alas, sometimes editors don't make those initial quality checks. I once received a paper to review which was awfully written and—even worse—the figures had just the labels and not the diagrams... – Massimo Ortolano Feb 16 at 10:12
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    @MassimoOrtolano Yes, indeed. This is somewhat hinted at by me writing that the editors "often have a look at a paper ...". Not sure if there are statistics available stating how often it happens. – DCTLib Feb 16 at 10:14
  • I don't have any statistics either, but I look at every paper that cross my editor-in-chief desk for ~5 minutes before sending it to an editor to handle the reviewing process. For some papers, I can't say whether it's good or not (because I don't have the subject matter knowledge) and in those cases I specifically invite the editor to check whether the paper actually needs to go through review or could be rejected right away. – Wolfgang Bangerth Feb 16 at 14:54
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    However, the editor could have been a bit more precise w.r.t. what exactly was wrong. I don't know. Desk rejections are expedient by design. It's basically the journal telling you that you've entirely wasted their time. They are sent to two categories of individuals - crackpot independents, and try-hard hopeful young academics who think everything they do deserves a shot at Nature or Science. The former are hopeless, the latter are expected to have an advisor that understands how academic publication works. Unless the journal grossly misread, "speak to your advisor" is the correct advice. – J... Feb 16 at 20:51
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    @MiguelSilva Scientific journals are for professional scientists. Students should not be publishing on their own - their advisors are there to guide them in making an objective assessment of their own research as well as its suitability for publication in whatever journal. – J... Feb 17 at 11:31

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