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Recently one of my paper was rejected after review. The editor didn’t mention about the option of resubmission, just said:

It is challenging for us to envision a straightforward revision process to fully address these concerns, and therefore I am sorry that we can't offer to further consider this paper in its current shape.

I’d like to know whether I can understand this as a possibility of potential resubmission after substantial changes of my paper upon the editor and the reviewers’ request or not. I have a couple of good experiences with resubmission to the same journals, but at that time, editors always gave a clear option to resubmit my paper. This time, I’m not sure about whether the door to this journal is completely closed or not.

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    Can you quote all the relevant parts of the editor's letter, please - leaving out any identifying details of course. I feel we could help you more if we knew what was meant by "these concerns" - which the editor implies are too numerous or serious to be corrected by a rewrite.
    – Trunk
    Feb 8, 2023 at 17:02
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    The editor has mentioned that there are substantial concerns about the human relevance of the findings, and whether the data are strong to support the overall conclusions. The reviewers have commented some details regarding these concerns with given some suggestions. The reason that we are considering resubmit the paper after a major surgery is that all the suggestions are available for us to do by performing extra experiments that will take at least 3 months…
    – user167689
    Feb 8, 2023 at 18:08
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    @Trunk I don't think those details are necessary. From an English-comprehension point of view, this is pretty clearly a "we are not interested in this paper, do not resubmit." Feb 8, 2023 at 22:34
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    Your comment "The editor has mentioned that there are substantial concerns about the human relevance of the findings, and whether the data are strong to sup..." should be added to your question, which you can do via the "edit" mechanism, I think. Highly relevant, will get you better answers.
    – msouth
    Feb 9, 2023 at 4:28
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    @Trunk - That does vastly depend on what field you're researching in... If you're trying to publish a paper to do with human psychology... Human relevance is pretty important... Mathematics, less so Feb 10, 2023 at 16:23

5 Answers 5

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I'm sorry to say but this reads like the most negative reaction of the editor possible. The editor doesn't see how even a substantial revision of the paper would lead to a path to publication. They can't forbid you to resubmit the paper however many times you want but their point of view is that you would need to change it enough to make it essentially a completely new paper to make it worthwhile to resubmit.

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    It's plausible the journal's internal rules will allow editors/editors in chief to forbid (or at least automatically desk reject) certain papers or authors, but good journals won't consider anything like that unless an author becomes a "problem".
    – origimbo
    Feb 8, 2023 at 15:44
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    I imagine there is more explanation on what "these concerns" are in the letter. Feb 8, 2023 at 17:05
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    Calling it the "most negative reaction possible" seems a little exaggerated. It seems to me like they don't want to accept the paper, and the issues that need to be fixed are too complicated and deep-running to be addressed in one or two rounds of reviewing. Feb 8, 2023 at 19:36
  • I guess it's the "in its current shape" part that is confusing. I take the editor to mean that although they think there are problems with the paper's fundamentals, at least some of the contents could potentially find a home in a substantially different paper. Feb 9, 2023 at 19:03
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This seems just a polite way to say no to me.

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    More like a very pompous way to say it. But even if it was bad - and we only have the quoted section of the editors' letter at hand - then they should say if it's the lack of original material, organization, analysis of results or all the previous is what is wrong with it. That would be useful feedback to the author.
    – Trunk
    Feb 8, 2023 at 16:57
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    @Trunk Not necessarily pompous, it could be a very poor submission. Given the reference to "these concerns" it seems that more specific feedback was also given, but if work is sufficiently poor it may not even deserve a more specific handling
    – Bryan Krause
    Feb 8, 2023 at 18:59
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    No? More like, No Way!
    – Wastrel
    Feb 9, 2023 at 15:17
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I read this as "Maybe you could revise this in a way it could be acceptable, but we don't see it happening." In other words, the editor is strongly discouraging you from resubmitting without closing the door entirely. In my opinion, it's poor editing to not just say outright, in cases like this, that resubmissions wouldn't be accepted, rather than dangle a slim hope of eventual acceptance in front of the authors. But my feeling is it's pretty common. Editors who do this think they're being more generous by keeping an open mind, when really they're inviting you to waste your time on a resubmission that they don't want to see.

(The qualification "in its current shape" seems particularly ill-conceived. Of course the editor "can't offer to further consider this paper in its current shape", because this round of consideration is done now. The thing an author wants to know is whether a resubmission would be considered.)

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This sounds like "no amount of mere editing will fix this paper: the data is bad in some foundational way that would require additional research to fix."

As such, I think your comment "The reason that we are considering resubmit the paper after a major surgery is that all the suggestions are available for us to do by performing extra experiments that will take at least 3 months…" seems like a good path forward.

You won't be merely editing and resubmitting: you will be doing months of additional work and essentially submitting a new paper based on the new findings. Sure, the new paper might have much of the same wording; but the important foundations will have been changed.

I'd write to the editor to ask whether they would find those additional months of time and investment to be a worthy change, though: their wording is vague. They might have some other, unstated reason to decline you, and they might then give a firmer no, rather than a "maybe if you make those radical changes".

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Does the communication from the editor state explicitly the paper is rejected or is this your interpretation of the situation after reading the comments?

I am asking because a student I know concluded their submission had been rejected whereas in fact the editor had nowhere said so.

If the editor does not state that the submission is rejected, a resubmission is possible, but the submission in its current form has limited chances of eventually being accepted without major changes.

I suspect the referees did not recommend publication for qualitative rather than specific reasons, something like “it’s not really that novel” rather than “good idea but this section needs to be expanded”. It is not impossible to reorganize a manuscript to address such “soft” objections, but definitely not easy.

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    The OP's first sentence is "Recently one of my paper was rejected after reviewing process."
    – JRN
    Feb 8, 2023 at 8:24
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    @JRN is this what the report states or this is the interpretation of the OP after reading the comments editor? Feb 8, 2023 at 13:10
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    Yes, though the editor didn’t mention the word “reject”, the report status said so.
    – user167689
    Feb 8, 2023 at 16:11
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    @user167689 ok then this makes my answer moot. Just beware of overly pessimistic interpretations of statements from the editor. If they don't say it's rejected then, however hesitant the report may be, it's not rejected. If rejected I would have expected something like "Unfortunately for you our decision is to reject your submission in its current form" rather than some "soft" comment like you received. Feb 8, 2023 at 16:16
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    @Trunk if the status report says reject, I would assume the paper is rejected. However I thought the OP has inferred from the language of the report that the paper had been rejected. My point is: unless there's explicit indication somewhere that the paper is rejected, then it is not. When I read a comment like the one quoted by the OP, it does read to me like "major revisions to resubmit" rather than reject. Thus is it important to be sure the correspondence does indicate rejection explicitly. Feb 8, 2023 at 18:02

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