My group submitted a paper with journal A and it spend a really long time in review, the editor seemingly had a lot of trouble finding suitable reviewers. There was a revision about half a year ago. In the mean time, our research on the project has processed and newer results along similar lines have been submitted to other conferences B and C.

Now journal A got a new review in (more than a year after original submission), which recommends a major revision and criticizes insufficient novelty. We have improved results since then but those are already submitted to B and C. We don't know yet if B and C will accept and the revision is due before we will know. I understand that it would be very bad to revise it such that there are overlaps and end up with multiple publications with similar results but if B and C are not accepted, that concern would be moot.

Asking for more time to revise to know whether B and C will accept and make a decision based on that would be dishonest. I am concerned that retracting the original submission will make the journal feel like we wasted their time and used their feedback for publications elsewhere. I am concerned that asking for an extension to wait for the decisions of B and C will look we are wasting everyone's time to then pick and chose. With the benefit of hindsight and later results, I am not a big fan of manuscript A anymore but I am concerned about reputational damage for my colleagues and me and I also understand that the editor had to send out a lot of emails to get the few reviews he got over that long time.

1 Answer 1


When you receive a referee report from a journal or conference, they are essentially saying "if you want to publish your paper here, we suggest the following changes." You are certainly allowed to withdraw the submission and submit elsewhere, if you think the changes they are recommending would take too long to implement or force you to change your paper in a fundamental way. I doubt the editor would hold it against you.

That said, you have an advantage at the current journal because your paper has been there so long, so it's clear that the stuff in B and C was done later. Even if you're not a big fan of A anymore, it's still better to get it published. And, it's better not to wait till B and C get accepted, because part of your argument for why A has to be published is that B and C build on it.

If you're worried about the potential overlap with B and C, then you can update the introduction of A to discuss that overlap. But, I'd sell it as a positive thing, like "this paper was written in 2022, and has served as the foundation of subsequent papers B and C that build on the approach here." You can also talk up the novelty of A while you're revising it, and clarify how it's different from the papers that came before.

Lastly, the timeline is a bit strange. If there was already a revision six months ago, why is it only now that they are asking for major revisions? You might want to email the editor to discuss whether or not the changes being recommended are really required. A few times, I've had a referee recommend major changes, and instead of doing the changes I explained why I thought it was better the current way, and let the editor decide. Those papers were accepted, but it's key to have the editor on your side and a good argument about why you are not making the major revisions that were recommended.

  • +1 The point is that criticism of novelty might mean you just need to explain the novelty more, not that you need add more novelty from B and C to the paper.
    – Dawn
    Commented Apr 9 at 21:23

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