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The absolute state...

Pendaran writes, as if revealing some closely-guarded club-rule, "You can send a paper back to the same journal as long as a year or so has passed and it has been substantially revised." I'd like to know what journal has that rule in its author guidelines. Typically, rejection means move on. (Implicit: we are not giving you an option to resubmit. Some journals have to say this explicitly only because, y'know, some people just don't get the message...)

I'm sorry to say that there is a kind of entitled and rather slimy attitude on display in Pendaran's comment and the above post that really irks me. Bottom-line: if they wanted to consider a substantially revised version, they'd say so. That's called an R+R! I think most editors, at top journals anyway, would be alarmed by this behavior if you were to come clean to them about this. (I'm guessing you and Pendaran didn't!) They're swamped! I say this as past editor and as a referee who alerted a journal that a paper sent to me as a fresh submission was a rewritten version of a paper I previously recommended be rejected. (Surprise, surprise: the journal were not happy with the author!)


I cannot imagine sending a paper - the same paper - even significantly revised - to the same journal, years later. There are just so many journal out there. Move on. Further, I am not one who keeps sending a paper out to numerous journals. I tend to give up after THREE submissions. I think I may have submitted a few papers to four journals ... one after the other, of course. But I do not believe that good papers are often rejected (notwithstanding the story of Jason that Marcus mentions often). Indeed, I have a tonne of faith in peer review. It is the part of the profession where I feel I have been treated most justly.

Marcus Arvan

The absolute state...: Thanks for weighing in. Your perspective makes sense, and I appreciate hearing from a former editor.

However, if I might make a bit of a suggestion (in part because it is the blog's mission), I think it would be best to comment on these matters without commenting on the character or motives of others.

I often get the sense that whenever these kinds of issues are discussed, things that seem entirely obvious from one perspective (viz. editors or reviewers) do not seem at all obvious from the perspective of an early-career scholar. I say this, in fact, as someone who has been genuinely puzzled by the issue at hand in my own career. A lot of us are truly doing our best, and when things are not made explicit (e.g. by journal policies), it can leave open genuine uncertainty on the part of authors.

Worse still, my sense is that authors often receive conflicting advice. I have received quite a few inconsistent messages on related matters, not just from mentors but from the mouths of editors and referees.

For these reasons--and because this site is supposed to be a supportive place--I would suggest trying to be more understanding of comments like Pendaran's. I didn't interpret his comment as entitled or smarmy. On the contrary, as I note above, it is something that I too have sincerely wondered about--not out of a sense of entitlement, but simply out of uncertainty, as well as probably a vague hope that if enough time has passed and a paper has been changed enough, it might well count as a "different paper" than the one submitted the first time.

Marcus Arvan

Curious: speaking as someone who is now mid-career, I can not only imagine it--I *have* imagined it!

On a few occasions, I've thought to myself, "Well, this is nowhere near the same paper as the one I submitted five years ago. Sure, it may have the same title--as I especially like the title--and it may have the same general thrust/thesis. Still, the argument is really quite different now. It's a different paper."

While this line of thought may be wrong, it is one I can entirely see an early-career person sincerely considering (again, I have!). I also surmise you and I have also had different experiences. I sometimes give up on a paper after three tries (e.g. if it becomes clear the paper is a lost cause). But there are other cases where where I've kept after a paper for many years and many submissions, and where I'm glad I did. I think it all depends on the paper!

Michel X.

I've not done it, though I've thought about doing it. I think that gor once, my intuitions align with Pendaran's here (!): if it's been a few years and the paper is unrecognizable, then it's acceptable.

I would just add that I don't think anyone should just send it back just like that. It seems to me that one should flag the fact that it's a resubmission after years and substantial changes in one's cover letter, and check the appropriate box on manuscriptcentral. That way, there's nothing sneaky going on, and the editor can decide what to do about it at her own discretion and with access to all of the relevant information.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Michel: Yeah, that's sort of what I thought. A lot of journal submission portals allow (or even require) authors to write a comment to the editor. I would have thought it permissible--even if it doesn't work--to submit a substantially changed paper, provided one flags it for the editor.


As long as you’re honest that it’s a resubmission by mentioning it in a cover letter or using the same title or both then it’s up to the editor what to do. Some journals in my experience have no issue with resubmissions if it’s been a while and the paper is substantially revised. Why not try a different journal? Some of us like working with certain journals more than others because of how they’re run. Some journals are faster, nicer, more professional, and have better referees than others. Just be honest and let the editors decide whether they’ll consider the paper again.


I see no problem resubmitting a significantly changed paper. (regardless of whether it has been 5 years or 5 days). If the paper is significantly changed, then it really isn't the same paper. Are you not supposed to submit a paper again because it has the same general topic? And no, that is not the same as a RandR. I have recommended rejection many times while saying that I think the paper is publishable if changed enough. I think there is a limit to how much you want a paper changed while recommending a RandR. The reason being because an author is supposed to make changes in accordance with reviewer comments, and if the changes are too much that reviewer is essentially writing the paper. On the other hand, if the author decides to do those changes themselves, on their on time, then they can see if their new paper is now worth publishing.

I had a friend who published in a top journal after making minimal changes to the paper, and turning it in again one month later. He wrote to the editor and explained that he thought this was a great fit for the journal, and that to please give peer review another shot. I have to admit I would never do something like that. But it was upfront of him, and it worked out in the end.

Why submit to the same journal if there is so many journals? Well, depending on your topic and paper length, there might not be so many journals.

Deciding to not send a paper in after 3 or 4 rejections seems just plain silly to me. There are MANY (not just Jason Stanley's) paper's who have been accepted to top journals after many rejections. I had a paper accepted to a top journal after 7 or so rejections, and I made few changes. I have also had many reviews where one referee says accept, and the other says reject. Why would one have more faith in the random reviewer that says the latter rather than the random reviewer that says the former?

Still Curious

I would be curious to know if papers submitted many times end up being cited more, on average (or less) than other papers. Here is an exercise for anyone who has the data on their own papers - divide your papers into THREE categories: (1) those published in the first journal they were submitted to; (2) those published in either the 2nd or 3rd journal they were submitted to; and (3) those published after being sent to four or more journals. Then compare how frequently the papers in each category are cited. If anyone has some data I would love to see it.

Marcus Arvan

Still Curious: I'm curious about that too. I don't have any data beyond a single anecdote, and would love to hear anecdotes from others. However, my most cited (and discussed) philosophy paper was rejected by 14 different journals (I have psychology/X-phi papers with many more citations and discussion, but that's in the psych literature, which has different citation and literature summary conventions).

Still Curious

One more thing ... considering my five most cited papers (not counting one that was invited): three of them were published in the first journal I sent them to.


If I have a paper that is accepted on the 7th submission, it is completely possible that in another world that paper would have been sent to that referee first instead of 7th. And hence, in that close world it would have been accepted on the first submission.

Anyway, I do think Still Curious's experiment would be interesting. But with me personally I think the results wouldn't mean much. I write in very different areas, and hence I suspect citations numbers will have a lot to do with which topic I'm writing on. But if someone wrote mostly in the same area, then it could be worth finding out.


My most often cited paper was accepted the first time, but I think it being often cited has more to do with its appearing on a certain famous person's blog than anything else.

The main thing the number of submissions required before acceptance seems to predict, for me at least, is how contentious the paper is. For example, my most recent paper 'another look at color primitivism' in Synthese took many submissions to be accepted (the title kind of gives away why it might be contentious haha!). I mean the published version is very different from the first version I submitted years ago and much better. But a lot of the basic or core ideas are the same. So, if it were less contentious, it probably would have gotten an R&R sooner.

My best X-phi paper in my opinion questions certain arguments that a famous philosopher made years ago. It's very solid, and I've had 2 out of 3 referees at one top 10 journal accept it already but the editor decided to go with the minority opinion. I think that paper was originally written 2.5 years ago. I added another experiment and seriously revised it 1.5 years ago. Well, it's still in review land. Why? Having published a half dozen or so experimental philosophy papers working with an experimental psychologist to ensure sound methods, the only guess I have is that referees don't like its conclusions. But it's just a matter of time.

Whenever I have an idea I feel strongly about I don't give up on it, and eventually I always seem to find a few referees who love it. So, people don't give up on your ideas just because you're having a hard time getting referees to understand or like them. If you feel strongly that they're important contributions, keep at it! This procedure hasn't failed me yet. Everything I've written that I've liked has eventually gotten published, at least so far! You just have to stick with it and constantly revise, trying your best to clear up confusions and inaccuracies.

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