I lately received an email from the editor-in-chief of a journal to which I submitted a paper draft last week, informing me that my submission has been rejected. What surprised me is not the rejection, but the fact that that paper was rejected before being peer-reviewed, or, using his own words:
Facing a large excess-supply of good manuscripts, we have established a screening process of articles without formal refereeing to avoid long delays in editorial decisions. As a result of this, we have taken the editorial decision not to proceed with your submission. We wish you success elsewhere.
What does this mean? How has the paper been rejected without being peer-reviewed? Was it read by a machine? What might be the reason that caused the paper to be screened out? Any answer would be very appreciated.
It is very common for staff at a journal to make an initial assessment of the submission to see if it meet the criteria for publication. If the assessment is that it does not, the submission is not sent to peer review. In a more marginal case the journal may ask a “senior referee” or a member of the editorial board to quickly read the manuscript and confirm or infirm the assessment of the staff; the manuscript may or may not go to refereeing after the recommendation.