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I am working on a research project that all total will probably end up lasting about two years. As the research progresses, I am writing articles about each new discovery/study, with each article becoming more relevant to current interesting trends (for lack of a better description).

What I mean by this is that in the plan for publications my group has, the first article discusses just the structure, dynamics, etc. of some new interesting carbon/silicon/etc. system. The second article will elaborate on this for an even more novel, more developed structure than the first. Then the last article will (hopefully) provide a deep new insight into how this structure can be used for energy storage/transport/etc.

As I'm sure you can tell, each article gets more interesting, and thus I think each article has a better chance than the previous one of making it into a more highly ranked journal. Our current strategy is to submit the article to a succession of less prestigious journals (each getting rejected) until it eventually gets into one. This way, it ends up getting into the journal it probably deserves to be in, and not something lower, and there's always the chance it is accepted into a highly ranked journal as well.

However, I am curious if this is a bad idea in the long run. Will editors remember "Oh, they already submitted articles to us twice and got rejected; what are they doing it for again?" Will they be quicker to dismiss the next article they receive even though it is higher-quality/deeper research than the previous one?

Or do the editors give each new submission a fair chance for acceptance, with no memory of previous submissions?

I know some of you all are journal editors, so any insight you can reveal to me about your thought process would be quite appreciated.

  • The current answers address the "submission" issue very nicely, but I'd like to add one methodological remark. If you are working on a two-years project and expect important results, but are aware that the first ones may not be interesting enough to be "well-published", then, you could avoid submitting each least publishable unit, and instead release "technical reports" during the course of the project; at the end, when you have some genuinely interesting results (hopefully), submit a longer paper (or, if appropriate, a three-parts paper). – user51802 Apr 18 '16 at 12:08
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I am not an editor so I don't think I can definitely say how editors treat this, but I suspect that if you keep sending manuscripts that are not appropriate to the journal, it won't be helpful in promoting your next submission and won't gain you respect. Consider the fact that you have to convince the editor why your manuscript is important in the cover letter - you don't want to keep sending a paper every week saying it is the most important paper of the decade. Even as a reviewer I can tell you it is annoying to review a paper that is clearly not suited for the journal (although maybe it is the editor's fault that it passed to review in the first place).

If you think your manuscript fits a high-impact journal, it is fine to try a few journals to increase your chances. But try to be sincere with yourself - many papers belong to specialized journals, and that is fine.

Another fact you might want to consider is that high-impact journals tend to get recognized experts in the field as reviewers. You probably don't want to gain a bad reputation in those circles. Second, the pool of experts can be pretty small which could mean that when you resubmit to a different high-impact journal, you will get the same reviewer or someone who already heard about the paper and is biased (yes, sometimes reviewers mention papers they review to colleagues).

So the bottom line is: it is ok to resubmit a few times, but be careful not to overdo it.

  • Thanks for the reply. I will clarify that we definitely submit to journals that are very much on topic with what our research is, and we wouldn't submit it if we didn't think it had some chance (maybe 30-50% ?) of being accepted. It is mainly just the case that if it's rejected, it's because they've received enough submissions from others that are simply more interesting/exciting to their target audience. – James Apr 26 '13 at 3:20
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My general answer is to try to go for a higher ranked journal first and then successively go to less prestigeous journals IF you get rejected. I think such a strategy is sound. The problem lies in identifying what would be your highest ranked journal where the specific manuscript (MS) would be appropriate.

Then, as an editor; I do not think editors remember if you get several MS rejected unless they somehow are sub-par. Remember that rejections come in different flavours ranging from MS being unsuitable for the journal (non-critical) to the science (or description thereof) being really poor (critical). In the latter case, the editor will certany remember.

So (and I just state this to make the answer more complete) make sure your paper is in really good shape, follow instructions for authors (IFA) to the point and has a clear conclusion that fits the journal scope. This relatively sinple step is missed by many! In your case, you need to try to assess why your MS get rejected and try to improve whtaever aspect might be at fault. A well written paper with a well-conceived idea and properly defined conclusion, should be publishable in my opinion. If you get a rejction on av unclear basis where the reason is not clear, ask the editor for clarifications so that you can improve the paper.

Also, (and this is more difficult) assess what journals may be appropriate and if you have the time, send it to a higher ranked journal, understanding the risk of getting a rejection might be higher. Do not forget to check out journals that is farther from you home base (Europeans look at US-based journals and vice versa); there is a tendency to stick to "home"-journals in some fields. In th eend the journal should be indexed to give you the official credit you may want/need.

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I personally think it's a bad idea to just keep throwing papers at the door of a good journal just because it is a good journal. You seem to have a publication plan:

What I mean by this is that in the plan for publications my group has, the first article discusses just the structure, dynamics, etc. of some new interesting carbon/silicon/etc. system. The second article will elaborate on this for an even more novel, more developed structure than the first. Then the last article will (hopefully) provide a deep new insight into how this structure can be used for energy storage/transport/etc.

If your new work is too similar to your earlier work previously rejected, many venues (especially top journals) may ding you because it is not different enough for them to consider it a completely different paper. No journal wants to re-review one they've outright rejected (even if half of it is new).

So then, look at the journals that you are targeting and check out the last 2 years or articles they have published. Be honest with yourself in thinking: "Which of my articles would look entirely in-place among these other examples?" This is not just about the importance or quality of your research, but also the scope. If they want certain data or tests, make sure you have that data. If they want formulas, better include them. If everyone cites Dr. X, better make sure he's in your lit review. Etc. Ignore the junk the journal says about its' "official" scope. Look at what they actually accept as a regular (not special issue) paper. Find the one of yours that is the best match for a particular good journal. Submit that one.

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