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About one year ago, I submitted a paper to a top journal in my field. After waiting for 4 months, the manuscript is rejected with one positive, one negative, and a neutral (including many revise suggestions) comments. There is one common comment: the manuscript is too long. Nevertheless, the editor kindly suggested that I could revise my paper along all the lines suggested by the referees and resubmit my paper.

I carefully modified the paper according to the comments and replied the questions and suggestions from the three referees point by point, then resubmitted it after about four months form the first rejection. This time, after two months, the editor replied us as following without any further comment from any referee.

"I would like to thank you for taking the time to redraft your manuscript, to be considered as a resubmission to xxx. I have carefully read your new manuscript, and I am sorry to have to inform you that your paper is not suitable for publication in xxx. The manuscript still lacks a clear statement of its aims and motivation. (Two example from the editor's viewpoint). While I appreciate that you have taken significant steps to reduce the manuscript length, I still found it overly long, and the writing still suffers from many grammatical errors. I am sorry not to have more positive news."

There is no any comment for us after the two+ months' review. I guess our paper was not even sent to referees (previous or new ones). In my supervisor's experience, editorial rejection is typically very fast, a couple of weeks at most.

My questions are:

  1. Being forced to wait two months for a desk rejection without any comment, is that normal for a reputable journal? What should I do to acquire a potential comments, if any?

  2. Is it appropriate to send an email to coordinate with the editor for a new resubmission? And how much is my chance?

  3. What is the most probable attitude of the editor: does the editor really not like it?

Thank you very much for sharing your invaluable experience!

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    No offence intended. Based on the editor reply our as following and the writing still suffers from many grammatical errors, I strongly suggest you to find somebody to correct the grammatical errors in the manuscript before doing anything. – scaaahu Jun 23 '16 at 8:49
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    I heard my advisor once talking to another faculty (an Asst. Prof), "if you get a rejection, don't waste (more) time [trying to figure out how and why]. Address the comments and send it to another journal." However, I understand that this does not cover all cases, so keep this in mind. – The Guy Jun 23 '16 at 14:58
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    Generally I'd say aim for a different journal with this paper. Aim for this journal with a future paper. There's no point in being stuck doing revisions to the same piece of work when you can further build on this work, or even work on something else. – apokryfos Jun 23 '16 at 15:26
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The editor's comments clearly point to three things: 1. The manuscript lacks a clear statement of its aims and motivation 2. The manuscript is too long even after revision 3. There are grammatical errors in the manuscript

Regarding the second and third points, I think getting the manuscript professionally edited might be a good solution. However, regarding the first point, for a study to have reasonable impact, its aims and motivations need to be clear. You can perhaps do some rethinking around this point and take your supervisor's guidance to make these aspects clearer.

Now let's come to your questions.

  1. Timelines and procedures are not uniform across journals, and it is not uncommon for a manuscript to be rejected without any reviewer comments after two months, particularly, since, it looks like the paper wasn't sent for review a second time. However, you can write a polite email to the editor requesting him/her to send you the reviewer comments if any.

  2. I think the editor has made it amply clear that the paper is not suitable for publication in the journal. I personally feel it would be better to submit the paper to another journal, but if you are very keen on this journal, there is no harm in writing to the editor inquiring if he/she would be willing to take another look at it after it is professionally edited to reduce the length and fix the grammatical errors. You should also inform him/her that you will rework on the aims and motivations to make them clearer. Regarding how much of a chance you have, I am really not sure; depends on the editor.

  3. I don't think the editor doesn't like the manuscript at all: he/she has probably seen some merit in it; else you would not have received the revise and resubmit decision the first time. However, the editor is clearly not very satisfied with the revisions. You should actually have taken care of the length and grammatical errors at the time of the revision. That would definitely have given you a better chance.

One word of advice: even if you submit to another journal, make sure you get the grammatical errors corrected before you do so.

3

TL, DR; There is nothing you can do. The paper is rejected from this particular high-impact journal and you have to find another venue for publication.

Regarding your individual comments:

Being forced to wait two months for a desk rejection

Two months for a desk reject is normal. Could be done a little faster but it is not that long.

What is the most probable attitude of the editor: does the editor really not like it?

He obviously does not like it. This is why he desk-rejected it.

Is it appropriate to send an email to coordinate with the editor for a new resubmission? And how much is my chance?

It does not matter if it is appropriate or not. As things show, the paper has almost zero chance to get published in this journal. By writing another email, you are wasting your time and the editor's time.

In a nutshell, after the first paper rejection, your paper had very slim chances (probably none) to be published in this specific journal. The editor in his initial response was probably being polite, since the unpolite alternative "do not send this paper ever again to our journal" would sound too harsh. In my case, I have never heard of any paper rejected in a high-impact journal and then resubmitted to the same journal and get accepted. I do not say that it may never happen but you should understand that it is not the most common scenario. In the majority of cases, rejection of a paper to a specific journal is permanent.

Also you were given very specific comments.

  • The manuscript still lacks a clear statement of its aims and motivation
  • It is too long
  • The writing still suffers from many grammatical errors

Understand that every one of those comments would justify rejection on its own. You should focus your energy on improving your paper instead of believing that one more email or another negotiation round with the editor would change the outcome. Sending the same manuscript to the same journal a third time would make no sense. Thus you should find a new journal to submit your paper and only AFTER significantly improving your paper.

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    A "reject and resubmit" decision is not just a polite alternative to rejection. See this question. – ff524 Jun 23 '16 at 14:55
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    @ff524 The OP clearly said that the paper was rejected. As you know many journals have automatic submission systems that show the decision and most probably this decision was "Reject". The "resubmit" part may only appeared in the editor's comments. – Alexandros Jun 23 '16 at 14:59
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    I suspect it was really a "reject and resubmit" decision. The OP probably isn't aware of these subtleties. – ff524 Jun 23 '16 at 15:01

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