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Recent Grad

~I wrote the post Amanda responded to.

The policy of rejecting based on just one bad report does make a certain amount of practical sense (as long as you actually have more than one reviewer!). If, as I'm used to hearing, journals are overwhelmed with submissions to the point that they simply don't have enough space for every good article they get, then one solution is to error on the side of rejection--i.e., that way, you reduce the pool of good articles to a publishable size without compromising quality (increasing the rate of false positives). Of course, this method does have downsides. As Marcus points out, it will be harder for divisive or controversial papers to get through. And I also suspect that the current refereeing practices encourage people to write safer and more specialized papers (as Marcus and others have also noted). But I imagine that the best way to mitigate these issues would be to have some journals that prioritize publishing papers that try to make "bigger", more controversial points. I doubt most editors would change their practices unless the rate of submissions were to go down significantly.


I agree with you Marcus! And I wish there was a way to change entrenched practices. Because it is a zero-sum game though, there needs to be some policy of publishing controversial work over "safe" work that gets two "accepts". If the editors were to just start accepting more "one accept" papers without changing anything else they would clearly have more papers than they have space for.

Another option which I support but always gets rejected is to have more papers per issue. We have such an abundance of quality over space there is no need to worry about a few extra papers per journal bringing down the quality. The answer I always get is it is impossible because of reasons about space and copy-editing. This doesn't make sense to me, since switching to an online format makes way more sense these days, and I just don't see the value in caring so much about copy-editing. Would anyone's philosophical life really be changed if journal papers had a few typos?

Pekka Väyrynen

The going practice varies from journal to journal. For many journals where submissions are handled by specialist section/associate editors, the default is that when you've sent a paper out to referees in the first place, you wait for all the reports to come in and make a judgment based on not just the referee's recommendation but also the referee's reasons for the recommendation and your own reading of the paper. (This is the default procedure in the two journals I'm involved with as a section/associate editor.) It isn't uncommon for papers to get through where the referees are split. If a generalist journal doesn't have a team of specialist section editors, you would expect the editor to be guided much more heavily by the referees' recommendations; it's a real shame that sometimes reports aren't screened for quality well enough. So space isn't the only practical concern; editors' level of expertise with the paper's subject matters a lot too, and this can vary depending on how the journal is set up.

Also: I wouldn't read too much into a rejection based on just one report, without knowing what journal is in question. Some (even fairly top) journals use just one referee as a default, and only sometimes call in another referee.

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