Sunday, 8 August 2010

Should Journals Get Rid of "Revise and Resubmit"?

Leiter posts a reader question: Should Journals Get Rid of "Revise and Resubmit"?
"A philosopher writes: I think that journals should no longer give revise-and-resubmits. All decisions should be either accept or reject. A journal can certainly send an acceptance that reads 'we are pleased to accept your paper, and ask that you..."

Some reactions, from the obscure to the general:

  1. Revise & Resubmit is sometimes the grade editors give when they aren't happy with their referees. Despite appearances to the contrary, editors generally want to get a decision to authors in a timely manner. But sometimes, referees do not cooperate. Useless or capricious referees are a fact of life, but editors (who are known to referees) cannot always overrule their recommendation. An R&R can be a way out for editor and author, especially if the editor directs the author to make reasonable changes (but to ignore requests to write a different paper).
  2. There are occasions where an author (typically but not always new, or perhaps from an allied field) has jumped the gun and needs to spend more time with the paper before it can be published. Perhaps she has missed crucial literature or needs to add or remove sections before the paper is in the right form. In such cases, R&R is a signal that the journal wants the paper, and that the work IS worth undertaking.
    1. When referee reports make it clear that a paper is of high quality but not right for the journal, it should be rejected, with an explanation from the editor and (if possible) a pointer to the right journal. Referees and editors should never ask authors to write a different paper and submit that instead.
  3. An editor is typically looking for papers that are well-reasoned, interesting, original, and are responsive to existing literature. At top journals, they are also looking for papers that will stand the test of time. Papers can be rejected for offences to any or all of these sensibilities, and if possible, editors should say which.
    1. "Accept" (typically with minor revisions) means the paper is fundamentally sound, but would be improved with slight changes.
    2. "Reject" means the paper is fundamentally unsound, uninteresting, unoriginal, or unresponsive to the literature.
    3. "Revise and Resubmit" should be reserved for those papers whose research is there, but which have serious flaws. Usually, the editor has major concerns about the structure of the paper or its responsiveness to literature. (Papers that are unoriginal or uninteresting should be rejected so that the author can try elsewhere. These problems will not be solved with revisions.)

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