We submitted a paper to a fairly average journal and received a major revision decision. We made the suggested changes and resubmitted. The revision was reviewed by three referees and two of them mentioned that they were satisfied with the changes and the paper warrants a publication. The third reviewer made some strong comments and the editor's decision was 'reject'.

The third reviewer again raised some of the same concerns as the first two reviewers' original ones along with some completely irrelevant ones. For instance, one comment was that our technique did not improve performance; we were trying to improve the expressiveness of the model and claimed that this expressiveness did not come with a performance penalty.

I have already sent a request for reconsideration to the journal's editors but based on their past communication, I do not expect a positive response.

My question is: Is there a way to report such an incidence to the publisher? At a higher level of abstraction: is there a check in place for editors of journals or do they get a free hand after they have been appointed?

(I do not care much about the paper as I can probably find another venue; the paper is an extension of a highly cited work. I just want to make sure I play my part in keeping the academic process in line because I have seen it slip a little too often.)

If this information is needed: The journal is an "impact factor" journal published by Springer.

Edit: Just to clarify, "options" refer to ways to play my part in improving the system. The publication of this particular paper is not an issue as mentioned in the parentheses above.

  • 4
    You had a "major" revision decision. And then a rejection. It is not very common but unfortunately it happens sometimes. And now you want to punish the editor for rejecting your manuscript based on harsh comments from one of your reviewers? And how will this help you?
    – Alexandros
    Nov 26, 2015 at 15:24
  • 2
    I'm sorry if it came out like that. I don't want to 'punish' the editor. I just want someone else to review the third reviewer's comments to ensure they really warrant a rejection. I wish I could share them here so that you would see how irrelevant they are but since this is public, I don't think that's feasible.
    – recluze
    Nov 26, 2015 at 15:26
  • @recluze: Did the reviewers give an explicit recommendation (i.e., major/minor revision, reject, ...)?
    – mdd
    Nov 26, 2015 at 18:01
  • @MatthiasDiener, yes. 2/3 said 'warrants a publication' in the second round.
    – recluze
    Nov 27, 2015 at 1:52

4 Answers 4


If you want this not to go unnoticed, you can apply Anonymous' suggestion and also write a polite but clear e-mail to the editor and the editor in chief of the journal explaining why you consider the handling of your paper unsatisfactory. This may carry more weight if you make it clear that you do not try to change the decision and are already submitting elsewhere.

I would only recommend this if you are in a position where the handling editor cannot hurt your career too badly (e.g. tenured, or working mainly in a different field), as he or she may keep a grudge.

A very minor action you can also take without any risk is to write your very first name on your black list of editors you will never again submit to, and will never referee for.

  • Yep, already did that in the email but I don't think they can hurt me. See, I live in a place where publications are counted, not weighed. So, a journal is a journal is a journal :)
    – recluze
    Nov 27, 2015 at 1:50

Half-joking, half-serious:

Next time you're having some beers with some trusted colleagues, tell this story and gripe about this particular journal. For one, it will blow off some steam. (Caveat: I wouldn't recommend complaining to people you don't know well, at least if you are junior.)

Moreover, in the long run, this is how reputations are built or lost. If your colleagues are as upset by your story as you are, then they might tell it to others, avoid publishing in this journal, and/or decline referee requests from this journal's editors. (Conversely, if your colleagues think you're being unreasonable, you might get some useful advice.)

This would have only a minor effect of course, but it would do more than contacting the publisher: in the long run, authors hold all the cards, as a journal is only as good as the papers that get submitted to it.

  • Thanks. Probably the most useful advice since it tells me what to do. It appears the answer to my question would be: editors are free to do as they like :)
    – recluze
    Nov 27, 2015 at 1:49

When submitting papers you will often get reviewers who dislike your work for various reasons. Often their reviews will leave you scratching your head wondering how they misunderstand your work so badly. This is normal. You got it particularly bad with this happening after a major revision.

If you have the option of a rebuttal, you should politely mention why you disagree with the reviewers' points and hope for the best. Failing that, there's nothing you can really do. Your best option is to throw your hands in the air, curse loudly, and then resubmit elsewhere.

  • 7
    reviewers who dislike your work and misunderstand your work so badly are the least plausible reasons for a rejection. It's better advice to be critical of one's own work instead of jumping to the conclusion of conspiracy or incompetence from the reviewers' part
    – Cape Code
    Nov 26, 2015 at 18:40
  • @CapeCode Thanks for the very useful comment. I have already conceded that the paper isn't ground breaking. It's an extension of a very good work and for archival purpose, sufficient for an average journal. I have shared the comments with some colleagues to ensure I'm not being biased. Just wanted to see if there was anything I could do to improve the system.
    – recluze
    Nov 27, 2015 at 1:51

From my experience in the "normal" two rewier case the behaviour in case of an accepted and rejected at the same time is to invite a third revier and go for the majority vote. You seem to already have the majority vote cause three persons accepted the review.

The editor has always a chance to "override" a reviewers decision and reject on his own for scientific reasons. I assume you can conisder it as your rights to get access to this decision.

You always have the right to go to the editor in chief. Imo from what I heard very limited success chance. You might be better just to resubmit in a similar journal with few adaptations.

If you feel 100% unfair treated for unscientific reasons try to look for a person which you consider really integer and see if he agrees to your judgement. The decide if it is worth to fight for your justice. Go the editor in chief way. As mentioned before, low success chance. Save all communications. I do not recommend the following but you can "tag" the journal/editor quite publicly. There is sides dedicated for this, look them up yourself. I personally recommend to avoid this. Focus on the people who like your work. Resubmit elsewhere and continue to focus on being a good scientist and not start hunting down the bad ones. There is always a limit how much we can look away, but dont set this limit to low.

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