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Is there any research/study/survey that looked at what percentage of papers submitted to a conference or journal have been previously rejected in the same or another venue?

I am mostly interested in the computer science field (machine learning) and English-speaking venues, but I am curious about other fields and languages as well.

  • Although your question is interesting, it seems like a question aimed at your individual research, which I do not think is on topic here – Alexandros Nov 10 '14 at 18:03
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    @Alexandros IMHO whether it relates to the OP's individual research agenda should not be taken into account when voting or closing questions. – Franck Dernoncourt Nov 10 '14 at 18:29
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    @Alexandros I don't see any issue with this type of question. A quick search indicates that perhaps 5% of papers survive submission to The Lancet, for example. What happens to the other 95%? Surely they don't just get forgotten. – Compass Nov 10 '14 at 18:57
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    Yes I am basically looking for some studies on paper recycling. – Franck Dernoncourt Nov 10 '14 at 20:15
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    To collect such data you would need to access all the submissions at some conference/journal, then check the submissions of a following relevant venue to see if any papers were resubmitted (including resubmissions that use different titles, related work, or with different flow, order of authors etc..) I don't think accessing all the submissions of a venue is possible as an external person, thus the whole process in not feasible in my opinion.. – Mohamed Khamis Nov 11 '14 at 22:50
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I haven't found anything in computer science, but this has been well-studied in other fields.

For example, one study1 surveyed authors from 923 scientific journals from the biological sciences in 2006-2008 and found that

about 75% of published articles were submitted first to the journal that would publish them

(implying that 25% of published articles were rejected by another venue before finding their ultimate home).

A more common approach found in the literature is to follow up on the fate of rejected manuscripts from a particular journal (as opposed to the original target venue of published manuscripts).

For example, a study of manuscripts rejected by the British Journal of Surgery2 found:

From the 926 manuscripts rejected by BJS, 609 (65.8 per cent) were published in 198 different journals with a mean(s.d.) time lapse of 13.8(6.5) months. Some 165 manuscripts (27.1 per cent) were published in general surgical journals, 250 (41.1 per cent) in subspecialty surgical journals and 194 (31.9 per cent) in non-surgical journals. The mean(s.d.) impact factor of the journals was 2.0(1.1). Only 14 manuscripts (2.3 per cent) were published in journals with a higher impact factor than that of BJS.

This trend is not especially new. Studies from decades ago also show large numbers of rejected papers being accepted somewhere, eventually. For example:

A study of 350 manuscripts rejected by the Annals of Internal Medicine, a general medical journal, during 1993 and 1994,3 found:

Of 350 rejected manuscripts, 240 (69%, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 64% to 73%) were eventually published after a mean of 552 days (95% CI: 479 to 544 days, range 121 to 1,792 days).

A study of papers submitted to the American Journal of Roentgenology in 19864 found:

At least 82% of the major papers and 70% of the case reports that are submitted to AJR are eventually published, either in AJR or elsewhere

An interesting study I came across measured the reverse phenomenon: published articles that are subsequently rejected5.

As test materials we selected 12 already published research articles by investigators from prestigious and highly productive American psychology departments, one article from each of 12 highly regarded and widely read American psychology journals with high rejection rates (80%) and nonblind refereeing practices.

With fictitious names and institutions substituted for the original ones (e.g., Tri-Valley Center for Human Potential), the altered manuscripts were formally resubmitted to the journals that had originally refereed and published them 18 to 32 months earlier. Of the sample of 38 editors and reviewers, only three (8%) detected the resubmissions. This result allowed nine of the 12 articles to continue through the review process to receive an actual evaluation: eight of the nine were rejected.


1 Calcagno, V., E. Demoinet, K. Gollner, L. Guidi, D. Ruths, and C. De Mazancourt. "Flows of research manuscripts among scientific journals reveal hidden submission patterns." Science 338, no. 6110 (2012): 1065-1069. DOI: 10.1126/science.1227833

2 Wijnhoven, B. P. L., and C. H. C. Dejong. "Fate of manuscripts declined by the British Journal of Surgery." British Journal of Surgery 97, no. 3 (2010): 450-454. DOI: 10.1002/bjs.6880

3 Ray, Joel, Michael Berkwits, and Frank Davidoff. "The fate of manuscripts rejected by a general medical journal." The American journal of medicine 109, no. 2 (2000): 131-135. DOI: 10.1016/S0002-9343(00)00450-2

4 Chew, Felix S. "Fate of manuscripts rejected for publication in the AJR." AJR. American journal of roentgenology 156, no. 3 (1991): 627-632. DOI: 10.2214/ajr.156.3.1899764

5 Peters, Douglas P., and Stephen J. Ceci. "Peer-review practices of psychological journals: The fate of published articles, submitted again." Behavioral and Brain Sciences 5, no. 02 (1982): 187-195. DOI: 10.1017/S0140525X00011183

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For atmospheric science, I surveyed a number of journals. The results are published here:

David M. Schultz, 2010: Rejection Rates for Journals Publishing in the Atmospheric Sciences. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 91, 231–243. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/2009BAMS2908.1

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I suspect the numbers for journals in CS vary widely, as do the numbers for specific conferences. But I will say that most CS systems conferences, as an example, have acceptance rates in the 15-25% range. As someone commented above, most of these papers don't get submitted once and die after rejection. Some get submitted multiple times, get rejected each time, and eventually the authors give up. But I imagine a pretty high fraction get published in the same or a different conference a year or two later. I know of some cases, including a paper of mine, where something rejected one time got revised and selected as best paper in a later instance of the same conference.

So I guess it's a question of why this was asked [some time ago]. If it's to have assurances that one shouldn't give up hope after a rejection, rest assured!

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