Poll on manuscript rejections

My recent post on building confidence, building resilience, and building CVs got me thinking a lot about rejection, including what is the “right” amount of rejection. There’s no clear answer to that question, but I think there are extremes that would not feel right for me. If every manuscript got accepted at the first journal to which I submitted it, I’d suspect I was playing it too safe in my journal choices. But I also definitely would not want every manuscript rejected from multiple journals before it was accepted!

I originally was going to do a poll asking about what percentage of manuscripts you think you should get rejected, versus what percent actually are rejected. But I think that would be easy to guess at, but that probably it would be hard to estimate well. And I realized that it’s probably more interesting to get some sense of what is actually going on. So, instead, I am going to ask about the three most recent papers on your CV. (Three is an attempt to balance not having one weird paper dominate a response with not wanting the number so high that only senior folks could answer the poll.) This will take a little time to answer, I think – I personally would have to think a bit about each of my three most recent papers and to think of their submission histories. If you’re used to plowing through quizzes, this one might take longer.

A few general notes:

  • If a paper got a rejection with the possibility of resubmission and then got accepted at that journal, please do not consider that a rejection. In the old days, that would have been a major revision – let’s pretend we’re still in those times!
  • Please exclude invited submissions, since those are much more likely to get accepted and aren’t really representative of a case where you had to decide where to submit something.

With all that as intro, here’s the poll!

5 thoughts on “Poll on manuscript rejections

  1. If you are interested, we present survey data asking similar questions at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ece3.4467. We present data on the number of journals attempted and time from first submission to publication (Figure 1), and then some metrics of whether papers go to journals of higher or lower impact factor post publication, for papers that are eventually published in ecology journals. Our next paper (not yet written, but data are in hand) will be looking at whether gender, native language, or geographic region of authors influences the response to rejection.

    • Thanks for the pointer Charles. Coincidentally, I just happened across that (outstanding!) paper of yours a few days ago and wrote up a linkfest entry on it for this Friday. Not sure how I missed it when it first came out!

  2. This is an interesting issue and great post. I didn’t fill in the poll because I can’t exactly tell what are my 3 most recent papers. But I wonder about the concepts of safe or not safe, higher or lower impact factor, easy or hard. Not denying the importance of those (except for impact factors, which should be eliminated from evaluation of anything), there are other dimensions that are important in choosing a journal. Such as, where does the paper fit best? Which journals publish that kind of research? This is an important one for me. Some of my research is theoretical. Some is methodological. Some presents applications. It’s a waste of my time to submit these papers to a journal that doesn’t publish theory, or methodology, or applications, as the case may be.

    So I looked at my publications for 2018 (and what has passed of 2019 now). Some published in the first journal to which they were submitted:
    Theoretical Population Biology
    Journal of Animal Ecology x2
    Population Ecology x2
    Ecological Monographs
    Theoretical Ecology
    American Naturalist
    Natural Resource Modeling
    Population Health Metrics
    One rejection from Global Change Biology, then was published in Ecological Applications
    One desk rejection from Journal of Epidemiology and Public health, then published in BMJ Open
    One rejection from Methods in Ecology and Evolution, then published in Proc Roy Soc B

    (I had some very energetic collaborators!)

    Every one of these has a story behind it. The TPB paper was exactly the kind of thing that TPB publishes. It could have been shaped just a little differently and been good for Methods in Ecology and Evolution, and had it been rejected from TPB that might have been a next choice. The Population Ecology papers were submitted to a special issue on Evolutionary Demography, for which they were perfect fits. The Ecological Monographs paper would have gone to Methods in Ecology and Evolution but it was too long. An inquiry to the editor revealed that they sometime stretch their limits, but not that much. And so on. Is picking a journal where the work is a good fit the same as choosing an “easy” journal? Poor fit certainly makes it less likely to be accepted.

    And then there’s the question about the hippopotamus strategy vs. the rhinoceros strategy for journal choice 🙂

    Thanks for an interesting post.

  3. Pingback: First cut results of poll on manuscript rejections: we deal with a lot of rejection | Dynamic Ecology

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