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Assuming one submits a paper to an academic journal where the editor is positively or negatively biased towards you, what can they do to affect the odds of the paper getting accepted? An ideal answer would include links to academic research attempting to quantify the prevalence/effect of such bias.

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    Do you mean besides making a desk reject? Sep 19 at 19:21
  • @AzorAhai-him- yes, besides that. I'm assuming they could manipulate acceptance rates in other ways as well, if they want. Sep 19 at 19:21
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    Given the same set of referee reports, an editor could decide one is an accept, or a minor revision, or a major revision. The referee recommends, the editor decides. No idea whether journals have audits or whatnot...
    – Jon Custer
    Sep 19 at 19:27
  • Have you put some own effort into finding the "academic research" you are looking for? Sep 19 at 20:15
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    Any editor worth their salt will know which reviewers are more likely to like a paper and which are less likely to like it. How else would they interpret reports? If they wanted to, they could pretty much rig whether they will get a recommendation for acceptance or a recommendation for rejection simply by choosing whom to send it to. Sep 19 at 21:44

2 Answers 2

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Editors don't "affect the odds", they literally decide it. If they want to stop a publication, they can even if all the reviewers say "accept". Similarly, if they want to publish something, they can even if all the reviewers say "reject".

So if the editor is biased against you, best you can do is ask them to recuse and let another editor handle the paper. If that's not possible, you are screwed.

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    This answer gets most of it right but leaves out an important bit. Some journals, e.g., those published by the American Physical Society, will allow you to appeal an editorial decision. In that case you may be granted additional reviews, assigned a new editor, or both, depending on the nature of the appeal. Your appeal may also be rejected, but I think the key point is that it would be a different editor deciding on that (e.g., the editor in chief).
    – Miguel
    2 days ago
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I would guess that an editor with a vendetta against an individual or group could be successful in the short term but would probably cease to be an editor if they generate frequent complaints that are well founded.

However, an editor has a lot of influence over what gets published as they (possibly as part of a group) are the decision makers, not the reviewers. An evil editor could probably cook up rational sounding stuff to "justify" a rejection and it might work a few times. Unlike reviewers, editors are known to authors.

Even uniformly positive referee reports aren't a guarantee of getting published, but if their recommendations are ignored referees will want to know why.

As to "acceptance rates", it is much more unlikely since that assumes long term fairly frequent intervention. Most authors don't publish enough in a single journal to have this come in to play.

But, if you think something is fishy complain about it. Go above the editor if needed. But have some evidence of bias. Bias is bad for scholarship and bad for journals publishing it.

There is also the following effect. If an editor rejects a good paper or accepts junk it will be noticed by the community and the journal administration. In the former case because that good paper probably gets published elsewhere boosting the reputation of that other journal. Again, if it happens rarely (as it does) no one notices, but frequent occurrences will get noticed.

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