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I remember reading a journal article where a researcher in psychology analysed their entire manuscript submission and publication history. The way I remember it, the researcher had around 40 publications, many in top-tier journals. A large number of the publications were rejected 2,3,4 or more times before they found a home. As an early career researcher, I found it to be a really interesting read for highlighting just how much rejection is a normal part of the publication process.

  • Does anyone know the reference to this article?
  • Equally, are there other equivalent documents written by other academics?

Update: I found the article. See answer below.

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    No, I hadn't even heard of such an article until now. And now I very much want to read it. – Pete L. Clark Mar 7 '14 at 6:20
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    Oh I really wish we had more data on this. I almost feel like I should compile this for my own work (or at least for the ones I can remember). – Suresh Mar 7 '14 at 6:31
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    @Suresh you should, I highly recommend it. Then you should make it public and link to it from your academia.SE user page, so the rest of us can read it and be inspired :) – ff524 Mar 7 '14 at 8:00
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    It would be horribly depressing :). but might be a good exercise. – Suresh Mar 8 '14 at 3:31
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+50

I don't know if this is the article you're referring to, because the researcher is in biology, not psychology; and the journal article doesn't include the list of manuscripts, only the recommendation to keep one:

Stefan, Melanie. "A CV of Failures." Nature 468.7322 (2010): 467. Doi:10.1038/nj7322-467a. Web. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v468/n7322/full/nj7322-467a.html.

I can't seem to find the link to the author's actual CV of Failures (though I feel like I've seen it before), I can only find the article explaining it. However, if you search "CV of Failures" you will find some publicly available examples from other researchers.

P.S. I keep an ongoing CV of failures as described in the Nature article and I highly recommend the exercise.

14

Leslie Lamport details his history of publishing, including the Paxos paper, on his website. It took eight or so years to publish the Paxos paper.

Lamport received the Turing Award in 2013; and Paxos and its derivatives are now at the core of almost all large-scale web-sites (Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Netflix, ... ).

From the comments: Lamport's paper on Buridan's Principle took 28 years to get published! He explains the long road to eventual publication, ibid.

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    When I first read OP's question, I too immediately thought of Lamport. Lamport's paper on Buridan's Principle took 28 years to get published! – ESultanik Jul 11 '14 at 18:14
  • @ESultanik That's a great example. I think you should promote it to an answer, or perhaps edit this one. – Michael Deardeuff Jul 11 '14 at 19:39
  • +1 On Lamport's website. I was about to answer this. It is such a fun read that I've read it a few times over the years. – cabad Jul 15 '14 at 18:24
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After popular request, I'm posting this as an answer. Hopefully it's interesting to see a different example (or inspiration) of a successful researcher sharing how much rejection is part of academic life.

The economist Nattavudh Powdthavee keeps an online paper diary that displays the warts and all rejection trail for many of his (very interesting) papers. He also wrote some musings about his most rejected paper, now in the OTEFA Newsletter from p.7 - 14 times - but I'm sure many can beat this.

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I finally found the article.

The ArXiV link and PDF version: Scientific Utopia: I. Opening scientific communication.

It reports the publication history of "all 62 unsolicited articles co-authored by Brian Nosek" at the time. Brian Nosek is a well-published researcher in social psychology and more recently has been a leading figure in the reproducibility and open science movement.

The mean time to publication for published articles was 1.7 years and longer for not yet published manuscripts. That said, I could not see the distinction between published online and published with page numbers in an issue. Presumably, for some purposes published online is sufficient (e.g., for appearing in database searches, and for showing research productivity).

The table is shown below, or otherwise, go to this pdf where the tables are listed at the end of the document.

A few comments on the table:

  • This is the track record of a very successful scientist.
  • It's interesting to consider the relationship between this long publication lag and annual performance reviews. The submission is often the hard work (although revisions can be time consuming also), yet the recognition may come quite some time later.

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I think you are talking about this article;

Even if it is not what you are looking for, the following article might definitely brighten up your day if you are just interested in knowing that rejection is not the end!

  • 3
    That's an article from a career coach about rejection. It's not even about rejection in academia, specifically. – ff524 Jul 15 '14 at 19:32

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