Last February I submitted a research paper, the sum result of 18 months of experimental work during a technology transformation process at a startup enterprise. The reviews comments were distilled so much, to a point only mentioning the following on the revision/acceptance email:

While interesting and important, it covers a broad area without going sufficiently deep to meet the theory expectations of [journal]"

Three months passed. And I decided to submit it again to another journal. Another two months passed and the reviewers were, once again, short on feedback:

In light of the appropriateness of your manuscript for our journal, your manuscript has been denied publication

Is the time I cannot afford to wait, in 2009 and certainly not in 2021. It's simply not feasible.

Plus all the mistrusts it raises, when dealing with innovative experimental works, with the proven application, as is stated and can be read, on the submitted paper were is mentioned "MVP". Downloadable to be tested by the reviewers themselves.

Plus, nowadays I don't need to wait. There are Scientific Journals online, that can deliver the review process in 2 Weeks.

More importantly,

I found, in general, reviewers' comments to be too short (a bullet list of comments or not even that), and for that, I can simply manage someplace else. as someone on the comments rightfully put it, now what?

As in everything in life, the first step is to let know, and in this particular case, any Journal of interest, what are the difficulties, obstacles, delays, ... an author finds when starting a submission and also when going through all the tedious and too many times the slow process of publishing. If the editorial staff is unaware of such bad experiences, is more difficult to improve the submission platforms.

Until recently the only option available has been a private contact form or a private feedback form. In 2021 that is now clear to be too slow too, and with its own shortcomings. It can be found elsewhere, on Youtube, Reddit, Twitter, social networks in general research students and even researchers, speaking by themselves about their (or someone close) personal experience. And the main evident conclusion is: the submission processes (in this particular case) need to move (fast) to a transparent and clear environment, factual. all characteristics of any scientific method to begin with.

My view of what is needed in 2021 to improve the review process is as follows:

Reviews need to have a full report attached, with precise indication where, in the document, the reviewer(s) found something to be reviewed with an adequate justification of his/her findings (In all similar to what is being to when reviewing an IP document), that is to say, usage of automated tools for analyzing submitted documents (detection of plagiarism for instance and many others) all provide some kind of report analysis and that is helpful information for the authors too, not just to reviewers. Therefore, is important to facilitate and include all that info in the review report back to the authors. Plus it assists in improving immensely quality of scientific literature production when providing quality feedback like that. Immense value. A win-win for all.

Also, the obvious one, stated at the beginning, the review time needs to be shorter, much shorter. And that is not enough: the Sci. Journal webpage, needs to have listed, from the start, and publicly accessible

my submission title the abstract Authors and submission date. on click, the possibility to open a new page, where is shown the status and progress in a timeline with all details and comments throughout all the review process: Where currently is, what is waiting for, remarks being made on, for instance, a delay, ... When authenticated, the author gains access, on the same page, to more info about the review stages and progress including the final review report.

All, and more, in line with the latest guidelines for Open Data and Transparency in Science, found for instance on The European Commission website for open data and explainability of artificial intelligence.

this is how I view this problem. part of my job too.

However, the question remains: How can I improve my scientific article so I get a better chance of passing a peer review process short on feedback?

  • 5
    What does "Is the time I cannot afford to wait, in 2009 and certainly not in 2021. It's simply not feasible." mean? You said 30 months, not 264. Jul 6 at 16:57
  • Recently I found a peer-reviewed journal that the only requirement for submission is a document with the text and data. No formatting is required. Just upload what you have and submit. And to me, this is how it needs to be in 2021. simple and fast (the submission process from beginning to end). And the main drive to this need is the exponential increase on data available to do research on and publish again. So time spent on submission can be better used to time to write the next paper Jul 7 at 15:34
  • 1
    I don't think you answered my question. Jul 7 at 16:18
  • 1
    @MiguelSilva-TechGuy Without knowing the details of the journal that you found, I would suspect that this is likely a "peer-reviewed" journal rather than an actual peer-reviewed journal. There exist a large number of (potentially predatory) "journals" which meet the bare minimum of the idea of peer review without rejecting anything. They then publish shoddy results which no one will read due to the quality of the journal and charge the authors a hefty fee for their trouble. Quality peer review takes time (the reviewers are typically volunteers). Be wary of any unusually fast reviews.
    – John
    Jul 8 at 14:48
  • 1
    @MiguelSilva-TechGuy Software is not what is causing the delays. Jul 8 at 20:06

It sounds from your question as if you either (i) do not have much experience in writing journal articles, or (ii) lack a community of experienced colleagues (i.e., experienced in the publication process) with whom you can discuss your paper.

I would suggest that the best way of solving your problem is to try to fill the gap left by point (ii). First, you might consider your direct colleagues and professional acquaintances and ask anyone appropriate whether they would be willing to read your paper and to tell you what the reviewers comments might mean in-context. Alternatively, you might seek a professional editor in your specific domain and pay them for feedback. I know of several people who have done this with great results both in terms of improving their own understanding of what a journal might be looking for and in terms of getting the paper up to publication standard.

Sadly, most reviewers are time-pressured, over-worked, and underpaid, so that if there are major deficiencies in a submitted manuscript, they will give a few very broad-brush comments to justify their rejection. It is far easier to review (and make suggestions about) an "almost-there" manuscript than it is to make useful suggestions about a manuscript that is too far off the mark.

Note added since first replying: A third possibility occurs to me and it is to try to find an academic at a local college or university with whom you might work to improve your paper. You would then, most likely, share authorship with that person but the rewards would, to my mind, be worth the shared credit.

  • unfortunately, you are right. I do not have the greatest experience submitting papers for peer review. sadly. however, I am really good, really really good at one thing: improving platforms usability and friendliness, more recently in accordance with open data guidelines (see EU commission website). That said I really liked your answer. thank you Jul 7 at 15:25
  • 2
    I have a further suggestion. I went to my local university library today, having been motivated to see what might already have been written about your own problem. Among the things I found, was a book, of which I have now read (rather than actually worked through) half. To my mind, it is really really good and I only wish it had been available many years ago. The book is Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success by Wendy Laura Belcher (ISBN: 9780226499918) . It might also be available as an eBook.
    – user02814
    Jul 8 at 2:57
  • 2
    I am doing the book an injustice by pointing out any single part of it, when I really suggest you study the whole of it ... Nonetheless, there is one particular bit that I might suggest you start with, namely, the chapter called "Week 2", in which the author discusses "what gets rejected and why" along with various myths about what is essential or unnecessary in a good journal article. I commend the book to you, and wish you luck in your publishing endeavour.
    – user02814
    Jul 8 at 3:02
  • thank you. you can't imagine how grateful i am right now and as Portuguese sci. researcher. thank you for the book recommendation. Jul 8 at 19:59

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.