Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Publishing Blues

An odd thing just happened to me, and I wonder how common it is. I submitted a paper to a journal, did one round of major revisions at their request, then after the new version had been refereed I received the message: "This paper can be accepted for publication after you have made the changes suggested by the referees." I duly made said changes and returned the paper to the journal. Deal done, or so I thought.

However, after a couple of months they wrote again asking for another set of major revisions, no longer saying they would accept the paper if I made these new changes, but only that it "might be reconsidered".

Nothing like this has happened to me before. Has anyone else experienced it?


Robbie said...

Sounds very strange to me (and worrying!) Even if what you got was a conditional acceptance, rather than a categorical acceptance with advice to make a few changes, it seems totally out of order to me for the journal to ask you to do *new* revisions at this stage.

I've felt for a while that journals really need to do a better job with communicating to authors exactly what their decisions mean, and exactly what status your paper has at each stage. There's no uniformity, each journal using it's own wording (think of the twenty different ways of saying "revise and resubmit" for example).

I think it's horribly elitist to persist with a system where effectively you have to pick up conventions from the atmosphere (or by being told by people already in the loop) in order to understand what journal decisions mean.

Ross Cameron said...

I've had a close experience, although not quite as bad. (I wonder if it was the same journal . . .) I was at the stage where they were getting me just to correct grammatical and presentational stuff. This was after 2 R&Rs. And then - thanks but no thanks!

But they hadn't actually said 'this can be accepted if . . .', so I don't have as much cause for complaint as you do. Your case is pretty shocking. I've listed things as forthcoming on my webpage before because the editor's given me a conditional acceptance: I guess I won't be doing that again!

Anonymous said...

something just like this happened to me when i was an undergraduate. i agree the system could be improved a lot.

Steven said...

It happens. Here's something you might consider doing: Send a polite email to the editor briefly recounting the history and asking for some clarification. If the answer isn't sufficiently clarifying and encouraging, politely withdraw the paper and submit it elsewhere. Whatever journal it is, I'm sure there a plenty just as good, and some of them will handle themselves better.

Steven Gross

Clayton said...

That's terrible. I think Steven's advice is best. A friend of mine has gone through something similar. His piece has been under review now for 2 years and he's in the middle of his tenure review.

I've had nothing but frustration with journals and the review process. I've had a few referee reports that read like R&R's, ask for incredibly minor changes, and received flat rejections from the editors. I received an R&R, spent months making the recommended changes, and had the paper ultimately rejected because one of the paper's arguments was said to be similar to something that had come out in a book two months after the initial submission (Making matters worse, there was no similarity apart from the targets of our arguments).

It's really depressing to think that even if my lot improves with the journals, there's a whole new circle of hell to deal with.

Mike said...

They are obviously having trouble keeping track of their comments on the paper. Maybe it's carelessness, but it might be that they're just overwhelmed. I'm guessing it's a very popular journal.

Komarine said...

Yep. This happened to me recently. I received a message exactly like yours. The changes were minor - omit a paragraph. I sent it back. Two months later they rejected it on the grounds of a fresh referee report.