I always want to read a high profile publication papers. It is true that they are in general hard to understand but they have very important results (in general).

It happens to me sometimes. Sometimes when I read a high profile paper, I found that the contribution is not very interesting, not worth to publish the work in this kind of high profile journal. Maybe I am the one who do not understand the paper but it is only me?

Do high profile publication contain "uninteresting" (i.e., not very important or novel) publications? If it is the case, why they accept it?

  • 1
    @PiotrMigdal From the OP's description, I think he/she means "uninteresting" - e.g., not very important. I edited the post accordingly, hopefully the OP can confirm whether I captured his/her intent.
    – ff524
    Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 22:13
  • I do not know what I mean really. I said in the question that sometimes I found the contribution in them not very interesting. It could be my fault of understanding? Not correct I do not think so.
    – x.y.z...
    Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 22:14
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    @x.y.z... Interesting is defined by the folks who accept/reject the paper.
    – Mad Jack
    Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 23:25
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    @user11192 The paper is already accepted. I can read it. I can say something about it. If I find it "uninteresting", it means I am wrong?
    – x.y.z...
    Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 2:29
  • 1
    Everyone makes mistakes, including journals and readers who think they understand :)
    – Suresh
    Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 3:07

3 Answers 3


If a paper is published in a very good journal (one that is sufficiently good that it doesn't need to accept boring papers to fill issues), that means somebody (reviewer, editor) thought its contributions would be interesting, novel, and/or useful to a nontrivial subset of the journal's audience.

But, this doesn't mean that the paper is interesting to everyone. (Very few papers are!)

For example, I usually find papers that say "We applied a known technique to optimize problem X for some metric Y" very boring, but others in my field appreciate these contributions.

In some cases, you may find the paper uninteresting because you either understood less than the reviewer or more than the reviewer.

  • It often takes some knowledge of the field to really appreciate the contribution a paper is making. In most journals, the authors are allowed to assume that the reader already has some field-specific knowledge. If you read the paper without understanding this context, it will probably seem boring or not useful to you.
  • It works the other way as well. Sometimes, a reviewer reads a paper and thinks, "This is an important contribution," but those with more knowledge understand that it isn't. For really good journals, the editor can usually find a reviewer who understands the field well, so this (ideally) doesn't happen as often.

I am sure somebody can think of a paper that was accepted only for e.g., political reasons, and is genuinely, objectively unimportant. These are rare enough that I don't think these are the papers you are asking about.

  • 1
    usually those high impact journals have several stages of approval and it is more likely that an 'interesting' paper will get rejected, than an 'uninteresting' will be approved. They will most certainly contact at least two independent reviewers. However, the "tuned results' ratio tends to be higher in high impact journals. Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 4:34
  • @Martin "tuned results" ratio?
    – ff524
    Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 4:36
  • Making look numbers nicer than they actually are. I.e. in a chemical reaction you have a conversion (yield) of 10%, but you can regain like 85% of your starting material. So you can argue that you only used 15% and hence write that the yield is 80% after eductrecovery. (Also leaving out relevant information that might disprove your theory is quite common) Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 4:43

Each journal has his own policy as for what kind of articles it is going to select, that is it will have a set of criteria weighted by different degrees of importance.

Among those criteria you will find:

  • relevance to the journal
  • significance of the studied problem
  • originality and novelty of the work
  • achievement of the objectives
  • writing quality
  • technical quality
  • replicability if the paper describes an experiment

Those will be drastically different for example between a subscription type of journal and an open-access one, mostly for financial reasons. The peer-reviewing is also executed in different ways, with different methods and emphases. One has to pay attention to that.

At the end of the day, you will also find certain papers more "interesting" than others. The only way to find what you are looking for is to know what you are looking for exactly. Is it a journal focusing on novel content? Or just accepting the most methodologically correct ones? Ideally, to know how much you can trust different aspects of a paper, you need to know the details of its origin, that is who reviewed and selected it for you. Journals are a great tools for science, but they sure are not absolute.


You can take an other measure than subjective importance and this is the citation rate.

There are statistics which indicate that even in high-ranked journals there is only a relatively small number of articles which are heavily cited - and those create the high impact factor. All others are cited once or twice (and therefore "unimportant" if you accept citation rate as an indicator for "importance").

  • 1
    The OP is asking about uninteresting papers, not low-"impact" papers (which are an entirely different matter).
    – ff524
    Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 13:07

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