Someone I know is submitting her work to a scientific journal. As part of the submission process she is requested to include in the cover letter the reviewers' comments, should the manuscript had already been submitted to other journals previously. The journal's rationale for such a request is that this expedites the acceptance process.

How is this information used by the journal in the acceptance process? What are the pros and cons of providing this information?

  • 3
    In my opinion it is a nontrivial ethical question whether an author is obligated to provide this information when asked. Lying is not ethical...except in response to a question that you should not have been asked. Perhaps whether one is "requested" or "required" to provide this information makes some difference. – Pete L. Clark Apr 2 '16 at 20:59
  • 1
    Is this a well-respected journal in the field? I've never heard of this in my area (though Fire Guy says this is common). One thing I did hear is of journals your paper "almost" got accepted in offering to provide refereeing info to the another journal you submit to. – Kimball Apr 3 '16 at 0:41
  • 1
    @PeteL.Clark my initial reaction was also that this policy is ethically very dubious and that perhaps a lie of omission would be justified in response. On second thought I reached a different conclusion. One cannot say that the question "should not have been asked" if the author is choosing to be asked the question by submitting her work to the journal. The way I see it, she can vote with her feet and simply submit to a different journal if she disagrees with the policy; or she can answer the question honestly. Lying is not justified since she is not being coerced to answer the question. ... – Dan Romik Apr 3 '16 at 1:29
  • 1
    ... The only exception I would make to this opinion is if the journal she is submitting to is the only journal in her field and there are simply no other alternatives. In that case, there might be an ethical basis for not answering truthfully, though the whole thing still leaves a very bad taste and I would advise doing that only as a truly last resort. – Dan Romik Apr 3 '16 at 1:30
  • @Dan: I think you are probably right...but it was a nontrivial ethical argument. – Pete L. Clark Apr 3 '16 at 18:39
up vote 3 down vote accepted

I haven't encountered this myself, but as an editor, I think it would work in the author's favour if:

  • The review comments were generally positive, but the first submission was to a higher impact journal with a very high bar for acceptance; or
  • The review comments were mixed, but the authors have convincingly addressed all the major criticisms in revision the manuscript before submitting it to the second journal.

In this case, the author benefits because the editor and reviewers for the new journal are likely to treat the paper as a revision rather than an initial submission, so the re-review may be faster and requested revisions may be more likely to be minor.

It would work against the author if:

  • The review comments were very negative or impossible to address in revisions; or
  • The authors have chosen not to revise the manuscript and respond to reviewers' comments; or
  • The original submission was sent to a journal that the editor of the second journal believes has low standards for acceptance.

In this case, as an author, I would be inclined not to comply with the request.

This is usually requested by many journals nowadays. In case a paper has been submitted to journal A, got rejected and the authors chose not to change the paper or fix it. Then, theses authors submit the same manuscript to a different journal for possible publication. This paper would have to go over the same review process (although maybe with different reviewers), this would waste time and effort and in a way not fair (to other manuscripts) since this manuscript got rejected for not having correct/solid results (for instance). Since this paper has been reviewed by 2-3 experts in that particular field, it is best to address any issues raised to arrive at a higher quality paper.

In another scenario, the reviewers might request the authors to add additional analysis, literature review and/or redo an experimental testing (or even add some), then the authors chose not to change the paper and decide to try their "luck" and submit such paper to another journal. Again, this paper would go through another round of review that could result in raising the same issues(or even different issues) compared to that of raised by reviewers of journal A.

Since editor of journal A does not have access to editor of journal B and reviewers can review papers from multiple journals, there is a chance that the manuscript would be sent to one of the original reviewers! Or even getting different or similar comments to that of the first review. In this case, this paper has been circulating around for two rounds of review (maybe for 4-6 months)! and did not improve academically/scientifically.

Simply put, papers are meant to be published if they are of quality, merit and with minimum "issues", not for the sake of publishing! Hence the role of reviewers and peer review process. Remember no one can have a perfect paper, which is fine, but having a paper with questionable results or were flags are raised and have not been addressed is not acceptable!

One more thing, if I'm not mistaken, I believe some journals now request reviewers to re-review the manuscript if it was rejected and re-submitted to a different journal. Maybe somebody can confirm this as I have heard it from a colleague.

  • 7
    In mathematics, this is not at all "usual", I think. Indeed, it begs the question whether the paper was treated fairly/intelligently, by assuming that it was. Unless we can assume that all referees are sufficiently expert, yet have no conflict of interest, etc, this assumption might be unwarranted. – paul garrett Apr 2 '16 at 20:18
  • I should have added that my comment was regarding engineering journals such as those in Elsevier. Still it is very hard to get three reviewers to agree to reject a paper due since they do not know each other. – The Guy Apr 2 '16 at 20:20
  • 5
    @TheFireGuy perhaps it is common in engineering journals, but I haven't encountered it in journals in my field (neither in Elsevier journals nor others). I'm not sure what your comment "it is very hard to get three reviewers to agree to reject a paper" refers to: Editors rarely expect three reviewers to agree; one strong recommendation to reject is usually enough to justify rejection if the other two reviewers ask for major revisions or do not convincingly explain why the paper should be accepted. Some journals use only 2 reviewers or even just 1. – Significance Apr 2 '16 at 23:43
  • The response was for Paul's comment on if the paper is treated fairly/intelligently. I'm very aware of publication and reviewing process. One rejection is a rejection regardless of what other reviewers decision. Thanks for your comment. – The Guy Apr 3 '16 at 2:18

Your Answer

 
discard

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

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