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I have submitted a paper on mathematics to a journal and it was there for more than one year. I asked the editor many times about the reason of the review delay. At the end the paper was rejected with trivial comments. Some experts told me the reason of the rejection is that: I had asked the editor many times about the paper, which make him insist that the reviewers make their decision fast, and thus they gave trivial comments which led to the rejection. Can this really be a reason for rejection?

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    What's many? Three times? Four times? Every week? Every day? – xLeitix Oct 8 '14 at 14:35
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    every couple of months – Sara Oct 8 '14 at 14:36
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    One thing that is not clear to me from your question is the assertion "thus they gave trivial comments which led to the rejection." Were the trivial comments positive, negative, or neutral? – potentially dense Oct 8 '14 at 16:18
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It really should not be a reason for rejection. But the world of journals (even restricted to mathematics, which is my field as well) is vast and variable, and no one person gets to see more than a small part of it, so could it happen that repeated messages to the editor are a proximate cause of a paper's rejection? Unfortunately it could and probably has at least once...but all kinds of crazy things have probably happened at least once.

What I want to convey to you is that you are perfectly within your rights to check in with the status of a paper at appropriate intervals. In fact it is often wise (or even necessary) to do so, because a lot of processing jobs get done slowly on the part of the referees without specific reminders. (I am speaking in particular both about my experiences as an author and as a referee.)

There are better and worse ways to deal with editors -- as a quick example, when I submit a paper I like to suggest that I will inquire about the paper after N months (I fill in a value of N, never less than 4) and see what kind of response I get. I have never been told not to do this; at worst, I get a "contact us whenever you like, but don't expect expedited service because of this" type of response. As ever, being polite and professional catches more flies. But fundamentally: no, it is completely unprofessional to reject a paper because an author wants it to be processed in a timely manner. Reputable journals and editors should take it as a point of honor not to do this.

It would be different if you gave the editor an ultimatum: e.g. "I need a report within three weeks or I will withdraw the paper". Many editors will respond to that by cheerfully accepting your withdrawal. But that does not seem to be the situation you describe.

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This advice is only for mathematics; other subjects have different cultures.

I think it really depends on the tone you use and how often you make inquiries. Getting rejections for seemingly trivial reasons by people who don't appear to understand your paper is par for the course, and you should try to develop a thick skin about it (it happens to us all; the common wisdom is that if you are not getting rejected 50% of the time, then you are not sending your papers to good enough journals).

I usually inquire at 9 months, at 1 year, at 15 months, and then every two months. My emails are very low-key and non-pushy; here is an example:

"Dear Prof. {last_name},

I'm writing to check to see if there has been any progress in the refereeing process for my paper "{title}", which is currently under consideration at {journal_name}. Thank you very much for your consideration.

best,

Andrew Putman"

If I know the editor, I might be a little more casual, but the above is a good template if you are just starting out.

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    "Getting rejections for seemingly trivial reasons by people who don't appear to understand your paper is par for the course"-- its shocking that "rejections for seemingly trivial reasons by people who don't appear to understand your paper" is normal, It makes editors careless, isn't it? – Jim Feb 1 '16 at 11:02
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To some degree politics play a role in the final decision an editor makes. For a manuscript that has reviews that make it a borderline decision between major revisions and reject, if the editor finds you problematic, that could make an outright rejection more likely. Except in extreme circumstances, politics will not result in a manuscript that has stellar reviews being outright rejected (or vice versa). There are many reasons beyond an editor's personal opinion of you that can cause a manuscript with trivial comments to be rejected. Reviewers can generally submit confidential comments to the editor which can include serious criticisms, the scope of the work is often grounds for rejection as is how the manuscript fits into the scope of the journal. For some manuscripts and journals, the absence of negative comments is not enough to warrant publication, but rather you need a reviewer to champion the paper and make positive comments.

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The question seems to be conflating two different possibilities. It sounds like the "experts" you consulted suggested that referees feeling pressured about time may do a superficial job of reviewing the paper, and superficial reviews aren't good for the paper's chances of publication. But your wording (especially in the title) suggests that the editor actively decided to reject the paper as a direct result of your messages.

As Pete says, the second scenario really shouldn't occur, but in a big world, lots of things happen at least once in a long while. The first scenario also shouldn't occur, but in a system run by imperfect, busy human beings, it's possible and probably happens rarely but regularly.

In any case, I agree with Pete's bottom line: it is perfectly reasonable and appropriate for you to make polite, professional inquiries every couple months.

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