Long story short: Submitted a paper to a very respectable (but not TOP) journal in the TCS community. Received 2 reviews. The one was alright, not extremely enthusiastic but a decent review.
The problem is with the 2nd one: The reviewer failed in the most obvious way to even understand the statement of the problem, and said that "I cannot convince myself that the paper is correct". The misunderstanding is on the definition of the problem.
for the TCS people: its a standard resource allocation problem where we want to optimize some objective function. The reviewer's objection is that if we assign the same item multiple times to different users we could achieve a very different objective value thus the analysis on its bounds we give could not possibly be correct!
This does not any make sense since on the definition it is said explicitly that each item must be assigned once. In any case, it's the most standard definition of a very well known resource allocation problem!
Anyway, after the rejection of the paper based on the above reason, I contacted the Editor in Chief of the journal, asking for a 3rd reviewer to resolve the issue (I was not offensive to the 2nd R). The EiC responded immediately saying that a 3rd R could indeed resolve the issue but there is nothing the EiC could do because the handling editor communicated to the EiC that the Com. Editor trusts the expertise of the reviewers, and thus the rejection decision is irrevocable.
I want to ask:
- How normal is this situation? We are talking about an old and very well respected TCS journal, not some hocus pocus unknown journal.
- Is there any safety net for such kind of obvious mis-managed cases?
- Any particular advice for the incident? I am not very interested in the obvious "deal with it, it happens" answer. But observe that I am in a point of my career that an extra journal publication could mean a lot, since I am trying to find a permanent position and I cannot wait another year for this paper to go through such a process.
Note: I see few people misunderstood my comment. My comment is not targeted to the reviewer who might have made an honest mistake. It happens and I do not blame her/him. My point is mainly on the way the journal handled the situation, even when the very serious and very easy mistake was brought up to their attention. I was mainly interested if such a reason is valid for straight rejection (usually there is some revision needed which we have the chance to explain to the reviewer and the editor where they have been mistaken), and what to do when this happens. As mentioned again, I do not have 30 journal papers so that I could say this won't make any impact in my CV. I am applying for permanent positions and a +1 (very good) journal might make some difference. Thus my main question: is there any safety net that prevent non-professional editors make such unjustified and arbitrary decisions with such huge impact on us? And how this affect only us as authors? Is there any way to make journals (in general) act more professionally (without making a war against them): sadly, from the comments below, I guess not, besides boycotting the journal, but they couldn't care less.