28

I'm a PhD student. A paper for a conference got rejected. I haven't met my professor yet to discuss about it. But is it bad for my PhD performance? I mean, probably the professor will not trust my manuscripts anymore.

  • 76
    I am willing to bet everyone here on this site had one of his papers rejected before. – scaaahu Jul 27 '15 at 11:27
  • 3
    Welcome to the club. We all have had rejected papers before. Talk to your supervisor, find with him the next venue to submit it, improve it and upload to arxiv (if the next venue regulations allow) to avoid scooping and being able to cite it in a follow up work and resubmit at the next deadline. Rinse, repeat. – Alexandros Jul 27 '15 at 12:26
  • 9
    @AnderBiguri I think that's a terrible way to teach. Writing good academic papers is a skill that has to be learnt, and one of an advisor's jobs is teaching it. Papers by non-academics get rejected all the time, simply because they don't follow the conventions of whatever field so they don't look serious, they don't relate their work to what's gone before, and they tend to labour obvious points while skating over non-obvious details. Letting a PhD student do that kind of thing wastes everybody's time, including the reviewers. – David Richerby Jul 27 '15 at 19:34
  • 5
    One of my iron-clad graduation requirements for my own PhD students is to have a paper rejected from a major conference. (If you don't get rejected occassionally, you're not taking enough risks.) Congratulations, you're one step closer to finishing! – JeffE Jul 28 '15 at 1:30
  • 4
    @scaaahu I am willing to bet not everyone on this site who has written a paper would be comfortable with the pronoun "his". – Mark S. Jul 28 '15 at 2:05
18

What field are you in? In mine (theoretical computer science), conference papers get rejected all the time: the better conferences tend to have acceptance rates of around 25-35%, and acceptance or rejection is a lot more random than you probably think (thanks to ff524 for the link). It's easy to judge what the best papers are, and accept those; it's easy to judge what the worst papers are, and reject those. For everything in the middle, it very much comes down to how enthusiastic the referees were and whether or not at least one member of the programme committee was willing to stand up and argue for your paper being accepted.

Assuming your paper wasn't one of the obvious-rejects, there's a decent chance that, if you resubmitted it unaltered to a different conference of about the same standard, it would get accepted. Hopefully, the referee reports made some constructive comments so you can improve the paper before resubmitting it, and have an even better chance. (Note that I wouldn't recommend resubmitting unaltered, unless you got no useful advice at all from the referees. As Paul Garrett points out in the comments, it's not unusual for at least one of the same referees to see the paper next time it's submitted and it's rather irksome to see one's advice ignored.)

  • 5
    Also, if by mischance one gets the same referee in a different conference/journal and one presents an unaltered paper, it often happens that the ref is irritated to some degree by the lack of changes or lack of conformity to their advice... So, best to make some (worthwhile) changes, if only to be able to visibly have done so, but hopefully constructively, too. – paul garrett Jul 27 '15 at 19:59
  • @paulgarrett I agree: I wouldn't recommend resubmitting unaltered, unless there were no useful comments from the referees (which, unfortunately, is relatively common). I was mostly making a point about the randomness of the process. – David Richerby Jul 27 '15 at 20:31
  • 1
    Oh, indeed, for all but the best and worst, it's pretty random. But/and some people do have long memories, and want even their most random "advice" to be taken as gospel, etc., ... was my little complement to your points. – paul garrett Jul 27 '15 at 20:35
  • 1
    acceptance or rejection is a lot more random than you probably think. - some interesting research cited in related answer – ff524 Jul 27 '15 at 23:56
  • 1
    @Elessarr To give a talk at most (almost all, I'd say) computer science conferences, you write a paper and submit that. The papers are (lightly) peer reviewed and then one author of each accepted paper gives a talk about it at the conference. The accepted papers are published in a volume of conference proceedings and count as publications. – David Richerby Jul 28 '15 at 8:50
47

In short, no. In long, this is a normal stage of going through a PhD: nobody gets all of their work published all of the time.

The best case scenario is that the reviewers have given you some useful feedback to work with, in which case now you're in a better position than you were before. Worst case, you got a flat reject with no helpful feedback (which happens sometimes: I've seen reviews that say "Insert review here"), but at least you'll still have something to talk over with your professor. In the latter case, try and work out why your paper was rejected: was the idea not considered novel enough? Was the explanation not clear enough? Or does this particular piece of work need some more data, more evaluation or more analysis before its publication worthy?

In either case, once you've talked this over with your professor, you should now have some idea of what direction you can focus your efforts on. This will help you get your paper ready for submission to a new venue.

EDIT: You mention in your comments that the reviewers said there was nothing theoretically new with your approach. This gives you a few options (which you should talk about with your professor). Firstly, if you disagree, then you need to make your case for this stronger (by citing similar papers in the field and showing how your approach differs). This is often easier than you might think; there are enough niches in research that you can often find a way to show that your work can be applied to specific cases in a new way, or in such a way as to tackle new problems. Secondly, reframe the work: the approach itself may not be novel, but you can frame it in a new way by, for example, comparing it to other approaches or by using it to form a position paper on a certain issue. Thirdly, if you've been scooped, or you feel this ground has already been trodden, then talk to your supervisor about exploring other approaches in this area.

  • Another reason for rejection is that the editors don't feel that a paper is within the scope of their journal. – Sean Jul 28 '15 at 14:44

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.