The reviewers comments are so simple that I can correct them and send them immediately. But the editor says cannot accept the manuscript. Is there any chance that if we justify the comments, there can be acceptance? Can we write to the editor in return?

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    Well, did the editor give any reason for rejection? The reasons for rejection may be unrelated to the reviewer's comments. For example if the reviewer said "The authors provided a new approach for performing A, but made the small mistake B", it may be that the editor rejected the paper because A is not a timely topic anymore, rather than because the initial manuscript had problem B. Even if fixing B is easy, the editor may not be willing to publish a paper on A.
    – DCTLib
    May 29, 2015 at 8:22
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    In addition to @DCTLib's comment, it is also possible that even though the referees had few specific comments for the authors, they recommend rejection for other reasons like the work not being suitable for the publication. Those comments may not be available for the authors. You may contact the editors for clarification on the specific reasons (if not given) so that it can help you submit the manuscript elsewhere, but I would not expect them to change their minds regarding the rejection...
    – ddiez
    May 29, 2015 at 9:37
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    @DCTLib it seems unlikely that the paper would have been sent out for review in that case. May 29, 2015 at 10:54
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    @MarcClaesen -- in my field its pretty common that the editor only glances at it to pick reviewers, and doesn't make any choices about appropriatenesss for a particular journal, and there are reviewer questions on appropriateness and, more importantly, impact and priority. Low priority papers may just end up rejected, no matter how perfect the research and how clear the conclusions. In one clinical journal I'm thinking of, the question reads something like "Is this manuscript appropriate for our wide readership?) May 29, 2015 at 19:17
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    @ScottSeidman as a reviewer I wouldn't be pleased to have my time wasted reviewing articles that are clearly below standard and/or clearly out of scope (I've already been asked to do both). I expect action editors to do at least that much instead of pawning articles off to experts that voluntarily put in the effort. After reading the abstract it should be clear whether a paper has any chance or not, in terms of writing style, clarity and significance of results. If the abstract fails to clarify such issues, then it's a bad paper anyway. May 30, 2015 at 8:32

3 Answers 3


First things first, you should check and see whether the editor has actually rejected the manuscript, or whether you just received a very awkwardly worded request for revisions.

The reason I say this is because the specific phrasing about "cannot accept" you use reminds me of some terrible editorial communications I have received that begin: "We cannot accept your manuscript in its current form ..." but are actually a request for revisions. I've nearly been fooled into thinking a request for minor revision was a rejection this way, and only realized I was wrong when I noticed a date for submitting the new version at the bottom of the email.

My advice then:

  1. Reread the email and see if you've really been rejected. You might not be.
  2. If yes, or if you can't tell, get in touch with the editor, express confusion and ask for help understanding the reasons. A good explanation is appropriate.
  3. Be prepared to take the paper elsewhere, because an editor once decided rarely changes their mind.

You can certainly contact the editor and ask for a clarification for the reasons behind the rejection if that is not clear to you. I think any reason for rejection should be made clear to authors so that they can, if possible, still salvage the manuscript and publish it somewhere later (assuming it is in some way salvageable).

The editor has the responsibility to make decisions and usually does so based on scientific grounds and what is best for the journal, reviewers and authors. It is not uncommon that authors disagree with a rejection decision and as an editor, I have seen more than one angry rebuttal to the decision from frustrated authors.

Whether or not you wish to take up a discussion about the decision is entirely up to you. I can only urge you to be civil and provide facts rather than emotions as arguments. Editors are humans and are just as prone to errors as others. So there is always a chance the decision is questionable, at least until you know its basis. The number of decisions I have had to change over my five year "career" as Editor-in-Chief is in the single digit percent, bordering on permille.


Is there any chance that if we justify the comments, there can be acceptance? Can we write to the editor in return?

You can always try, and if you truly feel treated unfairly, you probably should write the editor. However, keep in mind that (contrary to popular believe) it is the handling editor, not the reviewers, that decide whether a paper is accepted or rejected. So from a formal perspective, it is OK to reject a paper even if the reviewers all voted to accept. Of course, from a practical perspective, this behaviour, especially if it is a common occurrence, raises all kinds of questions (such as why the editor bothered the reviewers in the first place).

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