In the last few years I have been working on a controversial topic A of my field. As usual, I started doing the state-of-the-art and talked with some scientists, and I discovered that the scientific community is divided in two groups:
- ~80% of the scientists don't think A can work
- The remaining ~20% think A can work
It's difficult to formally prove A (no one has done it yet) and basically not possible to experimentally verify it (we only have some not-so-strong empirical evidences). There are also some sort of philosophical issues (even if the topic is really technical). However, if formally proved, it would have a huge impact on both research and industry.
I think that group 1 is wrong and also group 2 is wrong. The truth, in my vision, is in the middle, and my research focuses on this: trying to find a different modeling or trying to formally prove only part of A, or A but with some extra assumptions, and so on.
However, during the years, these two "factions" started to diverge more and more on opinions, to such an extent that the group 2 now always bases their claims on a couple of very controversial papers (which most people, including me, think are flawed). This way of reasoning of group 2 made most of the community (group 1) to believe that any research claiming A is just wrong (which is not true).
And then, there is me. Probably because I arrived at a later stage of this "discussion", I see things in a different manner: there is hope for A, but we need to recognize the limits of A and the fact that the state-of-the-art works on A have problems. However, when I submit a paper on this topic (from a position paper, to a super-technical paper), I very often get reviews like:
- From group 1: "A is a shitty thing", "Oh no, another paper on A", "This is not interesting for the community" *
- From group 2: "We already proved A, why we need this work?"
*These are textual transcripts of sentences in reviews of top conferences/journals.
And often these reviews are opinion-based and not fact-based, which make me very frustrated, because they don't criticize the work itself (formal proofs, etc.), but the topic.
Luckily, I have sometimes received reviews that really appreciate my work and some scientists have told me that my way is the right thing to do. However, publishing (especially in top journals and conferences) is very difficult in this way, because I always get at least some reviewers against me (in one sense or in the other, often both of them). Editors most of the time don't care about the controversial reviews, they just reject the paper.
What I'm doing now, for papers on A, is to publish in less-important journals or in journals not 100% on topic, but this reduces the visibility of my works (and unfortunately impact my career...). This makes me sad and I'm really thinking to abandon this topic. Getting a rejection is always frustrating, but getting many rejections based on opinions is really terrible...
I don't know if there is a solution or what I should do. For the pure research spirit, I may publish just on Arxiv or so, hoping that someone will notice them... but you know, an academic career requires you to publish, and to publish in good journals/conferences...