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Having read this earlier question I find myself in a similar, but different situation and would like to ask your advice.

My colleagues and I have created a new medical imaging system, and have performed a series of standard tests on this system. We want to publish two papers - one describing in detail the design of the system including some key performance parameters, and another describing in more detail all performance (with a brief summary of the design). Ad the device is now commercially available, there is significant interest in the community to have more details in peer-reviewed format.

Both papers were submitted to the same journal, and were reviewed by different reviewers. Comments were along the lines of "this would be great if it contained [more of what is in the other paper]". In other words - neither paper is currently accepted because it is missing information that is in the sister paper.

Unfortunately the journal in question has a hard limit on length (5000 words including reference) and figure/table count; combining the two into a single paper would seriously hamper our ability to communicate the details that would be of interest to our target audience.

So here is the question: would it be considered acceptable to contact the editor, explain the situation, and request that the two papers be published side by side in the same journal? It would largely address the reviewers' concerns. The alternative would be to request an exemption from the word / figure count.

I don't know whether either of these things is commonly done. Your advice is appreciated.

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    What did the editor say? Is one editor handling both submissions? Did you provide with each submission the other manuscript as supplementary material? – Bitwise Mar 17 '15 at 14:40
  • At this point I think they were handled individually - my question is whether it's OK to point out to the editors that they should be treated as a pair. How common is that? – Floris Mar 17 '15 at 14:42
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    It's pretty common in the non-medical literature that I am familiar with (engineering, applied math, etc.). You should feel free to talk to your editor(s) and show them the papers and how the reviews dovetail. – Bill Barth Mar 17 '15 at 14:49
  • Whether if it is common or not, directly contacting the editor and explaining him the situation is far the easiest and a potentially fruitful way to handle the situation. Your other choice is to the two paper into a single manuscript, either by finding another journal with larger page-limits or editing the text shorter. I cannot judge whether publishing the results in two papers are justified, but the first approach definitely worth a shot. – Greg Mar 18 '15 at 6:26
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Honestly, it sounds a little like you were trying to Salami-slice your papers, and the reviews are showing this. If the design is not interesting / understandable / plausible without knowing the analysis, and the analysis is not understandable without the design, then the solution should be that you make this one larger, better paper, and not that you somehow make the reviewers aware of the other publication. One of the fundamental rules of scientific papers is that they are supposed to be self-contained - every paper should, by itself, be understandable and add something to the state of the art.

If the journal you are submitting to requires papers that are too short, you can always go for a journal with higher page limits.

  • Thanks for our thoughts. I would much prefer a single paper - splitting was really done to accommodate what are in essence artificial limits. I am looking for "what is done" so we may approach this in the most practical way. There is a clear reason for wanting to publish in this particular journal... but having options is a good thing. – Floris Mar 17 '15 at 15:21
  • It is hard to judge without seeing the manuscripts, whether the split is justifiable. There are cases when splitting the manuscript actually does good for readability. I have seen papers where the review process forced the authors to jam together several different studies, and they were not pretty to put it politely. – Greg Mar 18 '15 at 6:31
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    Is it really expected that papers in science are supposed to be self-contained? In math, many papers are written with the assumption that the reader has read (and understood) certain previous works. Though I hate when papers just refer to other papers for notation without bothering to recall it. (And often the cited paper will not be easily accessible.) – Kimball Mar 18 '15 at 7:54
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    @xLeitix: "two (presumably) separate set of reviewers asking for the other part are at least a good indication" - not too reliable, maybe. Quite some reviewers seem to automatically ask for getting any mentioned other paper B (or complain about its unavailability) on the assumption that it contains more information helpful (but not indispensable) for understanding paper A, which is not necessarily the case. It's like a trigger, a bit like in an oral exam: When you mention some X and imply there's more information available about X, the reviewer/examiner will ask about X ;) – O. R. Mapper Mar 18 '15 at 15:05
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    @xLeitix On one hand I see the logic of your argument. On the other hand reviews are often not really reliable sources of opinion on editing and rhetorical decisions. In technological fields it is very common that the implementation and technical details of a certain device is far beyond the interest and comprehension of the readers who will be the ones actually using the device. See MRI, NMR, etc. In this case strictly focusing on two topics in separate manuscripts is actually a good way to do it, and the "i want to know all" is the sign of poor craftsmanship. – Greg Mar 19 '15 at 1:49

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