After submitting a paper for review, I received a letter from the editors containing a negative report and informing me that their (editors') decision was to reject the paper. Although the paper was about six months with the referee, it was clear from the report that she did not read it, just had a quick look and wrote a report, full of typos, mistakes and speculations about what the referee thought was in the paper (as she didn't read it).

I wrote a letter to the editor saying that I agree with their decision to reject the paper and would not dispute it. But I also expressed my opinion of the report, because I think it might help to increase quality of the review process. I had no intention to get the paper reconsidered, and even started to prepare a slightly revised version to submit it to another journal. However, they have responded that they would give it to another reviewer.

Now this situation is quite uncomfortable for me: I imagine how the referee will feel if the paper gets accepted and appears in this journal. On the other hand, the referee should be well aware of the (poor) quality of her work, so maybe she will not care.

The question is: should I care?

  • 20
    Do you really mean to write that you agree with the decision to reject? If so, why did you submit the paper? – David Ketcheson Jul 7 '12 at 6:10
  • 7
    David, my vision is as follows. The journal has its rules and its procedure, which should be followed. The rules say that the decision of the journal is final and cannot be disputed. So I think I don't have a choice but to agree with the decision. Breaking rules, even for a good reason, is wrong, because this would mean that there are no rules. And having no rules means having a mess. – user1209 Jul 7 '12 at 13:54
  • 11
    If you told me that you agree with the decision to reject a paper, I would take that to mean that, if you were in the referee's place, you would have recommended rejection. Abiding by a decision and agreeing with a decision are two very different things. – David Ketcheson Jul 7 '12 at 14:28
  • 4
    Why is this even a question? You paper gets accepted. Period. There are cases where 1 of 3 referees rejects your paper, but it's still accepted. The happiness should be YOURS for the acceptance and NOT REMORSE for the referee who rejected it but will see it in the journal/proceedings!! – PhD Jul 7 '12 at 17:36
  • 8
    Yes, David, these things are different. "Abide" would be a better word than "agree". My use of English words is not perfect, I agree :) – user1209 Jul 7 '12 at 19:56

No, you should not worry. Referees offer opinions. The actual decision to accept or reject a paper rests with the editor. The referee may very well be offended by the editor's decision to ignore her opinion, but that's certainly not your problem.

Oftentimes, the referee will not find out the editor's final decision unless she checks up on the status of your paper herself. Furthermore, the editor could have initially chosen to ask for many referees, and there is often disagreement, so it is commonplace that some referee recommendations are not followed.

Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, don't worry about a referee getting offended that your paper got in. You could have just as easily gotten offended that your own paper got rejected. We all have to learn to live with not always getting what we want, referees included.

  • In this case there was one referee and the initial decision was to reject the paper. Thanks for your reply anyway. – user1209 Jul 7 '12 at 2:10
  • 12
    My point was partially that the referee might not have known she was alone and might not have known about the decision. More importantly, she shouldn't be surprised that your opinion of your paper was different from hers. If the editor decided to ask for another review, he must have found your reply at least somewhat persuasive. So, yes, don't worry about it. – Lev Reyzin Jul 7 '12 at 2:14
  • 2
    The second paragraph is the most important point from this. We all are adults here. – Davidmh May 2 '14 at 15:03

Most journals solicit half a dozen referees hoping that two or three will respond. (I'd be worried about a journal that only uses one referee.) In any case, referees do not usually know how many or who the other referees are, so the person in your case may assume that the vote was 2:1 against them.

In either case, the editor has absolute discretion. They've been known to override even majority negative reports and go with the .... (drumroll please).... minority report.

Your Answer

 

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.