Author: Arantxa Vizcaino – Translation: Erika-Lucia Gonzalez-Carrion

[Editor decision]: the mail issue that most frightens authors in the scientific field, and which often generates great concern. What do we do if we receive a negative decision from the Editorial Board of a journal?

First of all, and prior to sending our manuscript, we should be aware of the two phases that are part of a negative decision: 1) Estimation without evaluation; 2) Final decision after review. The manuscript management flow defined by the Editorial Boards involves procedures that speed up the (pre)evaluation of papers. Models subject to high reception rates, by means of which the team intends to analyze the authors’ proposals under standards of quality and technical-scientific rigor.

Self-management of rejection: Reject desk

The alert that awakened that ‘Editor decision’ in our mailbox becomes a reality: “We regret to inform you that…” (I regret to inform you that…). (I regret to inform you that…). The room darkens and we continue reading. What circumstances imply the rejection without evaluation of our manuscript? How should I handle this decision? Should I immediately write to the Editorial Board to complain about their ill-advised opinion? Send the paper to another journal as is? Or should we, perhaps, analyze the reasons that may have compromised this decision?

In order to decide on a strategy, it is important to evaluate the reasons behind the rejection, always taking into account the seriousness and ethics for authors. When we receive a blind peer review report, critical extraction, planning and improvement of the manuscript are acted upon accordingly. However, when an article has been rejected by the editorial team without exhaustive evaluation by its staff of specialized reviewers, we must carefully analyze the possible reasons.

First reason: formal aspects and approach

The reason for alluding to the study of the regulatory requirements of a journal is mainly due to the many occasions in which a manuscript is rejected for not complying with the formal aspects. From the proposed structure (whether empirical or theoretical), to the minimum-maximum length, the format of the abstracts, the reference model… many papers are postponed because they do not adapt to the language of the publication. Indeed, the vernacular structure is what this issue is all about.

It is essential for an author to read not only the regulations, but also the journal, its articles, its approach. These publications have a focus/topic section (scope) that considers the adequacy of the study to the editorial interests and the scientific area. Have you proposed to submit for evaluation a study on machine learning for the optimization of chemical reactions in a scientific journal on museology? You may venture to predict the editorial resolution but, unfortunately and surprisingly, this practice is common. On countless occasions authors omit this (essential) information, stumbling upon a reject desk.

Second reason: methodological approach and results

Often, Editors reject the manuscript because the analytical approach is not sufficiently rigorous, explicit and argued, or because the results are barely significant or representative. This implies that the scope of the work does not meet international standards and capacity in the journal’s field of research. It is of utmost importance that you evaluate the manuscript from this perspective.

Check what the objectives or research questions are, and check that their scope is valuable for the intended audience (your readers). As a last exercise, try to identify and analyze the exposition of a manuscript with a similar proposal. Do you consider your methodological analysis and your findings to be of relevance to its scientific community?

Third reason: innovation and originality

Perhaps the manuscript meets all the expectations previously discussed: it fits the scope, it satisfies all formal requirements, and the methodological approach and findings are potentially considerable. Now, ask yourself: What about its originality? For these cases we should refer to the latest publications in the field of study: What is being published in the area? And in this journal? What topics are raised in the next call for papers? Would it be of interest to readers to publish tomorrow the discovery of penicillin? If its combination with a new drug would lead to the eradication of the pandemic that concerns us, what answers will we obtain? Indeed, we must pay attention to the innovative quality and the impact of the study on society. Let us always bear in mind that we are working in the field of science, of knowledge.

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