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I submitted my paper to one of Springer’s journals seven months ago. One month ago I received a letter from the editor-in-chief:

Following a review of the manuscript by the editorial board, we have regretfully decided not to consider this work for publication. We thank you for your interest in our journal and...

I wrote the journal an e-mail and asked for the review mentioned in the letter, but received no answer. I also wrote to the editor himself (to his personal e-mail), and asked the fair question: “why the editorial board decided not to consider the work?”, but my question was ignored. I have been waiting for one month for the answer.

What can I do in this case? Note that I only want to know the reasons for the rejection.

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    I suspect your article did not make it to the reviewing process. This is usually the case for articles that are off-topic, incomplete, has no contribution..etc. – seteropere Nov 26 '14 at 16:04
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    But why should it be suspected? Is it difficult for the Editor to write directly that the article is off-topic, or incomplete, or has no contribution..etc.?? – X-ray Nov 27 '14 at 11:34
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    "Is it difficult for the Editor to write directly": To everyone they reject? Yes. – A E Nov 27 '14 at 20:57
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    @AE: As a rule, the editors exactly know why they reject or desc reject a paper. Before making such decision, they actually spend "some time" looking at the paper at least. (note that in my case the time between submission and rejection was 6 months). To write "the paper is rejected (or desc rejected) because ..." may take 1-2 minutes at most. If they don't want to spend these 1-2 minutes on writing a very short reason for rejection, one can hardly beleive that they really spent that "some time" mentioned above. – X-ray Nov 28 '14 at 9:20
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    I suspect they are concerned about the possibility of getting pulled into a long-drawn-out discussion of the merits of the paper. Because most people whose paper has been rejected are likely to argue that their paper should not have been rejected. See here: "You say: 'If you don't want to publish me, I want some feedback about why.' Dating equivalent: 'If you don't think I'm attractive, please spend a few hours giving me a makeover.'" They're simply not paid to critique rejected papers. It isn't their job. – A E Nov 28 '14 at 10:11
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"Following a review of the manuscript by the editorial board, we have regretfully decided not to consider this work for publication. We thank you for your interest in our journal and..."

This sounds like an editorial ("desk") reject more than anything else. Hence, there typically is no formal, written review that the editor could forward to you. It is just that the handling editor and/or the Editor-in-Chief have decided that the paper is either of low enough quality, or so clearly out of scope, that running it through the full-blown peer-review process would be a waste of reviewer time. While this is of course a harsh judgement for your submission, the editors are entirely allowed to do this - there is no formal "obligation" that any submission will have to be peer-reviewed before it can be rejected.

What can I do in this case? Note that the only thing I want is to know reasons for the rejection.

Realistically, not much. Of course it would be nice if the editors at least gave you some informal pointers why your submission was desk-rejected, e.g., "I am sorry but your submission is out of scope for this journal", but maybe if your request was combative enough, the editor decided that she/he rather did not want to get into an argument with you about this. Anyway, I doubt that there is an obligation on the editor's side to always fully justify each rejection. At the end of the day, acceptance of papers is always a discretionary decision by the Editor-in-Chief, and not something you can formally object to.

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    Writing to the personal email of the EiC was a no-no. It further adds to your image as a problem person and further reason why engaging with you would not be productive. Suck it up and apply to another journal. – RoboKaren Nov 26 '14 at 17:32
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    @RoboKaren: Well, "personal email" is a bit ambiguous. My guess is that the OP means that he sent the email to an address affiliated with the EiC's university rather than with the journal. It is fairly common for the journal's own website to list these editorial email addresses. In fact, the way you submit to many journals (admittedly, not as many as a few years ago) is to pick an editor and send the manuscript to their "personal" (i.e., university) account. I don't find this to be intrusive, and I do think that the OP deserves a (not necessarily very enlightening or substantive) response. – Pete L. Clark Nov 26 '14 at 22:26
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    I disagree. I do a lot of admin work and prefer that all e-mail that goes to a particular role go to that e-mail address. If you're e-mailing both my admin-specific account as well as my 'personal' account, you're creating twice the logistical headache for me. – RoboKaren Nov 27 '14 at 5:00
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    I do not think that it is a headache for the Editor to write in a few words the reason for rejection. Is it realy difficult to write, say, "your manuscript is badly-written", or "there are no new results", or "your paper is out of scope for this journal", or something like that? This can be done in a minute. Otherwise, the journal has low ethical standards. – X-ray Nov 27 '14 at 10:38
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    Even if the OP's email was not combative, editors of journals are wary of entering into correspondance with authors of low-quality rejected papers. There are people who repeatedly submit nonsense to journals, then write to the editors complaining of unfair treatment, alleging conspiracies to suppress their work, etc. Some of them have a lot of time and any response whatsoever tends to lead to being made a 'target' for further letters. Although the OP might not be one of these cranks, it's reasonable for a journal to have a blanket policy of not providing justification for desk rejections, – jwg Nov 27 '14 at 17:35
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It does not seem likely that you will get an answer from the journal. The next best thing would be to look among those you know, or those to whom you can get introductions, for people who have had papers published in the journal. Ideally, find at least one experienced professor who is a co-author of a student-written paper in the journal.

Someone who has published in a journal has some understanding of the criteria it applies, including topics and quality requirements. A professor co-author may have guided graduate students through the process of writing a paper the journal will accept.

Ask each of them for their opinion of your paper as a potential submission to the journal. If they all indicate the same or similar problems, that is almost certainly the reason for rejection.

0

Although 6 months is definitely too long, here is a possible timeline that may cause legit delays in the processing.

  • The paper is received by the editorial system, and it might get some time to get to the corresponding editor.

  • Maybe the journal offers the manuscripts to the editors, and it takes some time until and editor picks it up.

  • Sometimes the editor is not sure about what to do with the manuscript, so it sends it to some colleagues for an informal assessment, asking them whether they think the paper should be reviewed.

  • After getting mixed answers at the previous stage, the manuscript has to wait to the next editorial board meeting for the decision to be made.

I don't think this explains easily a six month delay, but it does show that desk rejections are not necessarily immediate.

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    This isn't an answer to this question. (The question has nothing to do with delay...) – ff524 Nov 27 '14 at 20:59
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    @ff524: To be fair, the OP did mention a six-months delay in a recent comment. That is not to say that this really answers the question. – Wrzlprmft Nov 27 '14 at 21:03

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