A colleague of mine working outside of Europe has encountered an absolute bizarre and, IMO, utterly unacceptable situation for the first time in their decades-long career as a chemical engineering researcher. I am myself stumped and do not know how to proceed and require some sound, honest advice.
A manuscript was submitted to a journal and was suddenly rejected following a tedious 18-month review process (this is not a Tier 1 journal either - a rather standard 'bread-and-butter' publication in our field). One might think the manuscript must have passed through several rounds of review in that time, but there was in fact only one round of (non-major) revisions. The timeline is:
- Initial submission in 2021.
- Two requests for reviewer suggestions from the handling editor.
- Initial round of reviews in 2022 (this is 13 months after submission at this point).
- Revisions submitted a month later. None of them were major.
- A re-upload of a single Figure at a higher resolution requested after another month.
- Following an inquiry about the status of our submission in another 4 months, we have received an entirely unexpected decision of “Rejection” this month.
There was zero explanation provided for a sudden editorial rejection 18 months after submission. As you can imagine, the science had also moved on in that time, and my colleague could well have submitted to another journal. Following an inquiry to the handling editor and the Editor-in-Chief for an elaboration (or, indeed, any clarification at all), we received the following (heavily paraphrased):
The manuscript is unfit to be published in Journal Name. The language requires re-writing and the assistance of a language editor. Many technical expressions are either grammatically erroneous or completely non-sensical. The interpretation spectra is absolutely unclear. The conclusions leaves much to be desired.
This was the only explanation provided. The question is practically begging to be asked: Why was none of this brought to the author's attention at any point during the 18-month process? Shouldn't language with such 'unacceptable quality of technical expression' be immediately rejected before even contending for peer review? I was absolutely baffled when I heard about this, and advised my colleague to file any complaint possible to prevent other authors from experiencing this in the future.
This journal belongs to the first publisher that probably comes to the mind of anyone in the chemical sciences. Who can we contact beyond the Editor-in-Chief to file an official complaint?