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I just got rejected during a review process in a prestigeous journal. The paper has received a lot of valid criticism, which (to my best current knowledge) could be incorporated in its further versions (although, it won't be an easy task). I am willing to adjust the article properly, however, I also need to start moving fast toward a publication. Furthermore, unfortunately, there are only few journals that I could consider for sending my manuscript.

Thus, I would like to maximize my chances to get into another journal. And here's the thing: Is it optimal for me to attach the decision letter with acknowledging changes (e.g., item-by-item) when sending the manuscript to another journal?


My logic in favor of this approach is as follows:

  • The journal which rejected me is prestigeous: It may show that the manuscript has a merit.
  • I will show the targeted journal that I care about the paper.
  • Editors may feel less work is needed with the paper

On the other hand:

  • Item-by-item can take a lot of time (with possibly low benefits).
  • There can be few points in the reviews I may not want to address.
  • I have written the paper for a different journal: The new target could interpret it as a low fit with their research agenda.
  • It may feel like I am trying to appeal to authority (which, to be honest, I am).

The question

  1. Does attaching previous reviews increase the chances of getting into review process (avoiding desk rejection)?
  2. If so, shall I attach the whole decision letter with comments from editors or only reviews?
  3. If so, shall I address the whole reviews item-by-item or can I be selective?
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    I don't quite follow your first positive point. Why is getting rejected from a top journal showing merit? Anybody can submit anything anywhere.
    – xLeitix
    Feb 6 at 15:43
  • @xLeitix I would say the rationale is such as the paper was not desk rejected; thus, the editors considered that the paper has a potential for publication. Maybe this viewpoint is skewed because I went through the pitfalls of desk rejection with previous paper, so I feel like getting into the real review phase actually means something. And there was a statistics that papers in the review have 40 % probability of getting published, although the original source may have its problems: aje.com/arc/…
    – Athaeneus
    Feb 6 at 15:57
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    All three of your points in favor are basically false. You are, as you also did in your previous question, overestimating the significance of "a prestigious journal did not desk reject me". No serious editor is going to make any decision based on this. You are in fact creating more work for the editor by asking them to read and take into account another review from someone else (more precisely, another document which you claim is a review from another journal – verifying this would require even more work), so your third point is also false. And the second point is irrelevant. Feb 6 at 16:19
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    All of your positive points are unfortunately very false. Please abandon that train of thought. The only way to "maximize your chances" is to make sure the work is sound. You think you currently have some authority because your paper got rejected? All you have is a paper that was peer reviewed and deemed unpublishable. Fix that paper and try again.
    – R1NaNo
    Feb 6 at 18:45
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    @Athaeneus If your article was reviewed and rejected by the same publisher (different journal), you will be asked to disclose and include a point by point rebuttal/commentary to the referee comments. However, if you are going to a different publisher, you should only disclose this as a good faith effort. However, if your reasoning is that the prestige of the first reviewing journal which rejected you will help, this is false. If anything it states that the work was found unfit. So in your mind you are thinking this has a halo effect that will help, but it actually casts doubt on the work.
    – R1NaNo
    Feb 7 at 3:02

3 Answers 3

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Every editor is different and will react differently. I suggest that you don't flood them with information they might not need or want. You could, alternatively, offer to send them prior reviews on request.

You should "address" everything in any review, though one way to address some things is to make no changes. The paper is yours. Make changes that you think are warranted. But sometimes, making changes separately according to a list leaves the paper somewhat pedantic in tone, which you want to avoid. Consider all comments and make changes that improve the paper.

And, as you seem to realize, modify the paper to fit the current journal you will submit to. And say as much in any follow-up communication that requests the prior reviews.

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Anyone can get rejected from a prestigious academic journal, but getting to referee review requires that you at least got past the desk review, which is something.

You are correct that a paper that has already gone through a good referee review and been revised to reflect this may now require less work than an unreviewed paper. However, the referee reports will presumably point out the outstanding deficiencies in the paper that had not been dealt with at the time of their review. At best they may be evidence of successful revisions on previous points, but they will not be evidence that there are no outstanding problems. (After all, a rejection means that there is no later review by those referees to look at your changes.)

From the perspective of an editor of a new journal, they are going to be interested in the paper in its current state. It is not necessarily useful for them to know that your paper previously had other problems that have now been resolved (as attested to in referee reports from a previous journal). Such information is probably just going to complicate the submission and potentially overwhelm the editor with unecessary information. You could reasonably use your letter of submission to tell the editor that your paper was previously submitted to this other journal, that it got as far as a referee review, and that you have now revised the paper to respond to that past feedback. You could also offer to send the previous referee reports on request. That would make it clear that this information is available without overwhelming the editor at the outset.

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Here is some anecdotal personal experience: On several occasions I received "flattering" reviews that basically agreed that my paper was very good but still ended with a rejection for various reasons. On two of those occasions when I thought it made sense, I included the referee reports from the first journal when I resubmitted to another journal, along with a note to the editor explaining the situation. I did this in the hope that this will make everyone life's easier and enable my paper to get accepted with minimal hassle. The gambit worked both times I tried it.

Things to keep in mind about this anecdote:

  • I work in mathematics; my experience may be less applicable to other disciplines.

  • I knew the editors of the journals I was resubmitting to and felt comfortable sharing with them the details of the previous submission, judging that they could be trusted to use this information in a sensible way (and that they would trust that I was acting in good faith and wasn't trying to manipulate them into accepting a mediocre paper).

  • My papers were already well-written on the first submission and did not need any particular revision. (For your situation, since you are doing revisions, I would recommend against your "item-by-item" revision breakdown idea - no editor would be interested in spending the time to check that you did the homework that someone else assigned you. Just make sure they know you put in the work to address any deficiencies in your paper pointed out by the referees.)

  • I generally know what I'm doing, have a lot of experience with publishing papers, and am good at writing tactful, persuasive emails.

Bottom line:

  • Try this "academic hack" at your own risk

  • This approach is an unconventional one which has some chance of working if done in a professional, thoughtful manner, but also has some chance of being perceived negatively and potentially lowering your chance of acceptance. The more conventional approach is to submit your paper in the usual way and let the normal process take its course.

  • Overall, I would say this maneuver probably isn't advisable for someone without a decent amount of experience interacting with editors and journals. For an inexperienced person who does not have a good understanding of how editors think and make decisions, it will be harder to pull this off successfully.

Good luck with the submission!

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