I recently did a research study and submitted it to a suitable journal which covers the field. One of the referees said that the same analysis has been already done and referred to an article that was submitted to arXiv two months before our submission date. The mentioned article covers less than 50% of our work: the part of the work which is trivial and not challenging. This referee did not take any scientific objections and judged only on the apparent similarity between two papers. The second referee said that the work is interesting and non-trivial and asked some questions for revising the paper. The third referee (adjudicator) has made a decision based on the 1st referee's judgement and also pointed to the mentioned article.

I have 3 questions:

  1. Since we obtained the results almost simultaneously (I did not submit the paper to arXiv and directly sent it to a journal) and since our results are much more complete, and we cover topics that are not included in that article, can I send my objection to the editor and will it work? (Our paper is better in any respect, e.g., English writing, innovative conclusions, …)

  2. Since the three reviewers reviewed the article, is it possible that the result (rejection) changes?

  3. How can I write an objection that works?

Note: I am in a tight spot in terms of time and another peer review means another 1-3 months.

  • 19
    Reviewers are not always logical. I remember a research proposal that was rejected by the same reviewer for two reasons: (1) the work proposed had already been done and reported in the literature and (2) the work proposed was too ambitious compared with the state of the art, and the results were unlikely to justify funding it. Choose any one ...
    – alephzero
    Aug 19, 2021 at 0:52
  • 1
    @alephzero This kind of stuff might appear funny to the uninvolved but it might actually be the deciding factor between a non-tenured researcher having a job or becoming unemployed.
    – Thomas
    Aug 20, 2021 at 12:09
  • 2
    One thing to check is whether the venue has a citation policy regarding arxiv. In my field, most venues explicitly state that papers on arxiv are not considered publications, and hence need not be cited --- of course, within the obvious limits of plagarism. Also, put your own paper on arxiv asap? With a note as suggested in the answers regarding the result being parallel.
    – Oxonon
    Aug 20, 2021 at 14:53

2 Answers 2


Only the editor can answer the question, but you can certainly raise your points with them. But my best guess is that you will need that revision since part of your work has appeared. The editor might, validly, ask that you take some things out of your paper and, instead, cite those parts of the arXiv paper that are essential to the rest of your work.

I doubt that the editor will be willing to publish your work "as is", but only they can say. Like they will be a bit conservative in their decision. While it doesn't seem that you have plagiarized (an intentional act), including everything might make it seem that you have.

But, you will need to be fast. The other team isn't standing still, most likely.

  • 15
    I would say the normal thing to do is add a citation to the arXiv paper, and mention the overlapping results were developed independently around the same time. If you trust the other paper and want to shorten your paper, you can also shorten some of the overlapping work.
    – Kimball
    Aug 19, 2021 at 12:07
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    If the work is at all empirical, I don't know that the overlap would necessarily need to be removed; just acknowledged. In fact, one way to frame the revised paper would be as a replication and extension of that preprint.
    – Matt
    Aug 20, 2021 at 5:14

The referee believes you did not pay enough attention to the arXiv article. Modify your paper to cite this article, and clearly indicate why your work constitutes a substantial extension, then resubmit to a different journal.

Also, you have no real evidence that this omission was the sole basis for the outcome. More likely, this was only one factor.

I think it's unlikely that the rejection will be reversed, and you'll lose more time in the process.

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