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I have a question about submission elsewhere and journal's "consent" of paper withdrawing.

Recently I have withdrawn a paper of mine from a journal, which I want to submit elsewhere. Since I knew that the journal had received my email (by read receipt device) on withdrawing the paper and since I am just in the stage of being notified that the paper has been accepted for publication, the problem is: In order to submit the paper elsewhere, do I have to wait for the journal to consent to the withdrawal?

I am looking for some ethical advice.

  • Do you really mean "consent"? Or just explicit acknowledgement of receipt of your withdrawal – ff524 Sep 16 '14 at 14:26
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    @Comeseeconquer: There is no need to assign variables to the journal and the paper as there is no other journal or paper to confuse it with in your question q. Using variables instead of words makes q harder to read. (Also, if there were a need for this, q would be easier to read if you used “journal A” instead of just “A”.) – Wrzlprmft Sep 16 '14 at 14:32
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    One important question is whether you have already signed a copyright transfer to the journal. (This would normally happen after acceptance.) If you have, then you legally need their consent. – Nate Eldredge Sep 16 '14 at 14:42
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    Your use of variables is not at all something mathematicians in general do. At least not this way, where it serves only to make things harder to read. – Tobias Kildetoft Sep 16 '14 at 15:47
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    Even in your example "For every man etc." the version with variables is not an improvement over the plain English version. (I would consider "For every man there is a woman such that they love each other" to be an improvement, but that has nothing to do with the issue of variables.) Like other technical terminology, variables have legitimate uses, but slowing the reader down is not one of them. – Andreas Blass Sep 16 '14 at 18:57
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I'd recommend waiting a week or two to see whether you get a response to your withdrawal. At this stage it can't be urgent to resubmit immediately, and having their reply would guarantee that they are aware that you have withdrawn the paper. (By contrast, I don't think an e-mail read receipt means much. For all you know, an administrative assistant opened the e-mail and then mistakenly deleted it without realizing what it said.) I wouldn't go so far as to say you are required to wait for a response, but better safe than sorry.

I think you've got a much bigger issue to worry about, though, and that's why you withdrew the paper after acceptance. At least in mathematics, withdrawing an accepted paper is extremely unusual. To a first approximation, it typically means there's something seriously wrong with either the paper or the journal. You can certainly do it, but given the effort that has gone into handling and refereeing the paper, you will cause offense if you don't have a very good reason.

If you inadvertently submitted the paper to a junk or predatory journal, then you don't need to worry about causing offense. (Offending the editors of predatory journals is not a bad thing.) In that case, withdrawing the paper is certainly the right decision.

If you dreadfully screwed up in your choice of journal, for example by submitting a brilliant breakthrough to a respectable but not impressive journal without realizing how good the paper was, then you should apologize profusely for wasting everyone's time. Hopefully they'll understand that it was a genuine mistake on your part, and they'll sympathize with the awkward position you are in and give their blessing to resubmitting elsewhere.

If the paper is seriously flawed, then that's a respectable reason to withdraw it. You might look bad for having submitted it, but then again, the referee didn't find the mistake either. But this isn't a compelling reason to submit elsewhere soon: if you don't check whether the original journal is willing to publish the revised paper, then it looks like the changes were just an excuse to withdraw the paper.

Under normal circumstances, it will cause offense if people think you are withdrawing an accepted paper just to try your luck at a more prestigious journal. In particular, this is a dangerous impression to leave if you ever hope to submit to this journal again. As an editor, I would certainly not be happy to see a new submission from an author who had previously withdrawn an accepted paper without a compelling excuse.

All this gives you another reason to move slowly and wait for a reply. If you have a good reason for withdrawal, then it's worth making sure you have communicated it clearly. In any case, you are doing something rather unusual and serious, and it's best not to give the impression you are treating it lightly or casually.

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In general, yes, if by consent you mean you have written to say you wish to withdraw the paper for further review. Doing so, is in my mind and field, not something you should do light-heartedly. Waiting for a reply is also a good strategy, or etiquette, since you then know that the paper has been formally withdrawn (usually a click away in electronic submission systems). It is better to be 100% clear on what is going on. A return receipt in an E-mail is to me not sufficient and it can also be considered a bit arrogant.

In a request, you may want to add a few words to describe the reason why you wish to do so although it is your right. It all boils down to being courteous to the journal editors and reviewers, depending on how much work they have put into the journal paper.

Some authors seem to do this systematically just to get a sense of whether the manuscript will stand and to see if they can send it to a "better" journal. Such behaviour is of course not good etiquette and a slap in the face to those who do a fair amount of unpaid work on a manuscript.

requests for withdrawal should be easy and if you do not get a reply within, say, a couple of weeks, I think a reminder can be sent without hesitation. You may then also state that you will go along with the submission to another journal.

  • Thanks so much, real clear, giving me a holistic picture. – Megadeth Sep 16 '14 at 14:49
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Yes, one should wait to get the permission.

Edited: Journal's editors may have spent significant time and energy to contact potential referees. The same for the referees. So it seems unfair to withdraw the paper without a permission.

  • While this technically is an answer, it's not a very useful one, since it doesn't offer any supporting explanation. – ff524 Sep 17 '14 at 6:44
  • @ff524 I added a supporting explanation. – Name Sep 17 '14 at 7:12
  • What do you mean "permission"? You do not need the permission of the journal to subtract the submitted paper. – Tobias Kildetoft Sep 17 '14 at 17:41
  • @TobiasKildetoft I mean the permission of the journal to be ok with subtraction. – Name Sep 18 '14 at 5:56

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