I stumbled across a couple of social media conversations recently on the topic of authors resubmitting unchanged articles to a new journal immediately after rejection with referee comments. The first conversation asked whether it is permissible for authors to do this (viz. is it irresponsible or disrespectful to reviewers to simply ignore reviewer feedback?). The second conversation raised the issue from the perspective of referees and editors. Should a referee accept a request to review a paper at a second journal if the paper is unchanged? If so, is it permissible for them to simply resubmit the same referee report they did when they reviewed the paper previously? And, should editors be irritated with authors when this happens?
These are all interesting questions, and there was a great deal of disagreement about them in the conversations I was following. Still, I thought it might be worth discussing more openly here. What do you all think? Allow me to briefly share some thoughts, based on my own experience.
From an author's perspective, I think it all depends on the kind of feedback one gets. On the one hand, some referee feedback can be so vague that it's unclear why one should revise the paper. In some cases, all one might get from a reviewer is several sentences or a short paragraph stating, in very general terms, that they found the paper unpersuasive--without any detailed explanation. In other cases, referee feedback can be inconsistent: one or two reviewers can argue in their review that the paper accomplishes P successfully and is worthy of publication, whereas another reviewer judges things differently. In these cases, it is once again unclear to me why the author should have to revise the paper--unless the author judges for themselves that the reviewer's isolated concern(s) have merit. One other reason for this is that, if a paper has gone to multiple journals, different reviewers can have so many different concerns that if you revise the paper each time to address every single possible concern, the paper can become so long and unwieldy as to go far beyond journal length requirements. While reviewers having so many concerns can of course be grounds for "giving up" on a paper, they don't necessarily suggest one should do that--as some of the most famous articles and books in the discipline are ones that wide litanies of concerns have been raised against. The clearest case where an author should revise before resubmission, I think, is the case where multiple reviewers agree on a paper's demerits. If multiple reviewers think the paper is problematic in respect X, it would simply be unwise for the author not to do anything about it. Indeed, this seems to me the only clear case where not revising really would be "wasting everyone's time" (i.e. new reviewers, editors, etc.). Am I wrong?
From a referee's perspective, I certainly understand the temptation to accept and assignment to review an unchanged paper and resubmit an unchanged review. However, some of my experiences as a reviewer suggest to me that this can be a mistake. Sometimes, journals have a policy of forwarding the editor's decision email that goes out to an author. I think this is a good practice, as it can enable referees to see what other referees thought of the paper they reviewed. My experience is that in some cases, the contents of these emails can be surprising, indicating just how much different referees disagree about the merits of a given paper. In some cases, one referee might recommend outright acceptance, a second referee a revise-and-resubmit, and a third referee outright rejection. In cases like this, I'm inclined to think that the same reviewer accepting the paper as an assignment and submitting the same review as before gives their perspective as review undue bargaining power in the peer-review process. Part of what anonymized peer-review is for, as I've always understood it, is to counteract bias. Given that we all have epistemic biases, holding a paper's fate hostage to the perspective of one reviewer seems dangerous and unfair to me--unless, again, it is one of those cases where a reviewer knows that other reviewers felt the same way previously.
In short, my general feeling is that the best way to think about these cases may be in terms of fair, collective deliberation. Authors should feel free to resubmit a paper without changes when an isolated reviewer has a concern that the author is unpersuaded by, but not when multiple reviewers raise the same issues. Similarly, referees should feel free to accept an assignment to review an unchanged paper, as well as resubmit an unchanged review, when they have reasons to believe that other reviewers judged the paper similarly--but should beware accepting such an assignment in other cases, on the grounds that it might hold the paper's fate hostage to their own reviewerly biases.
But again, these are just some of my thoughts. What are yours?