In the comment section of our most recent "how can we help you?" thread, Amanda writes:
I need to vent about something: I just got a journal rejection. The journal had 3 referees. All 3 recommended a revise and resubmit. Yet the editor straight out rejected it with no reasons.(at least they didn't hide the reviews from me, which has happened before.) I can't stand this stuff. I mean it is so hard to get 3 referees to recommend revision, and when that happens I still don't get a chance. Days like this make me really wonder why I write all day. Anyway, can we please hurry up and get the new journal system in place, because this one seems to get worse everyday. (And I know, I know, this happens to everyone...even famous people. But that seems part of the problem.)
I empathize. Rejections like these can be particularly tough. At the same time, without knowing the details of Amanda's case, I think I can imagine a few possible scenarios where an editor might reasonably make such a call.
A second possible case that comes to mind might be one where the revisions the three referees request would be so extensive that it may be unclear to the editor how the author could possibly accomplish the revisions--either to all three reviewers' satisfaction or within the journal's word limit.
A third possible case I can imagine is where, after reading all three reviews, the associate editor(s) or whomever reads the paper themselves and decide that, if anything, the reviewers were too kind (maybe they see a big issue in the paper that the reviewers don't?). I don't know how often this occurs, but I've heard that editors may use their own judgment as a kind of "tiebreaker."
Again, I have no idea whether any of these scenarios are remotely close to Amanda's case. If, on the contrary, all three reviews she received were pretty effusive (while recommending revisions), I can definitely understand why her case might be particularly frustrating.
All of this is really just speculation though. Consequently, if there are any journal editors out there reading this, it might be illuminating to hear from them! Are there any journal editors our there willing to share their insight on cases like these?