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Friday, July 18, 2008

On rejections

Sure enough, just days after I publicly declared the Summer of Submission, I got my first rejection of the summer as well. ScienceGirl had asked how I dealt with rejections in the comments and I wonder how this post would be different if I were still 'awaiting final decision'...

Anyway, this first rejection is a reject with an invitation to resubmit. So it could be worse. My advisor and others faculty are really excited about this response. They are treating it more like a provisional acceptance, despite the fact that the editor specifically wrote 'this is not a provisional acceptance.' I don't have much experience with publishing and the finer nuances and implications of 'reject and resubmit' vs 'revise and resubmit' are lost on me. Basically, we will be re-reviewed after resubmission whereas a 'revise and resubmit' would just be looked over by the editor and not the reviewers. Please feel free to clarify or elaborate in the comments!

My handling of the paper at this stage all depends on the reviews themselves. In this case, they are helpful, positive and easily addressed. The most difficult aspect will be responding to all within the word limit of the paper. With reviews like these, I am eager to fix the paper and get it back out asap. With bad reviews- those that are nonconstructive and, unfortunately, mean- I have a tendency to sit on them and put off dealing with them as long as possible. My worst review was capped with 'the authors should think deeply about what they might be able to salvage from this work.' That one hurt. It took me a year to return to the paper, but eventually I did and it is in review at a different journal right now.

My rosy outlook on reviews stems from learning more about the process and others' experiences. First, I have now been a reviewer myself. From the other side of the review, you can appreciate the time and effort that (hopefully) goes into the reviews and respect that effort more in your revisions. Second, as it turns out- (almost) everyone gets rejected! My advisor gets rejected. The famous scientist that I idolize and get nervous just thinking about talking to? Yeah- gets rejected! The amazing writer who my lab relies on for a lot of editing? Gets rejected! Knowing this makes it much easier to avoid falling into the anxiety ridden hole where poor reviews are judgements of your ability as a scientist or worth as a person. Finally, I am slowly learning that reviews really do make a paper better and that if you stick to it, you will improve the paper and it will get published. It might have taken 18 months to resubmit that paper after the horrible review but the important part is that it got done. If it gets rejected again, well, I will resubmit again. I recently congratulated a fantastic, well respected young faculty member on her most recent paper. It was an interesting, well written and novel piece of science. She told me she had submitted it 5 times before it got accepted. Persistence will pay off eventually.

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Blogger Laurie said...

Nice post! Thanks. Although I have yet to even submit anything, I am trying to think of it as a whole process, including the rejections and reviews. I am actually really looking forward to getting some of my work out their and reviewed, just to see what others say about it. Alas, my co-author on some things does not always share my viewpoint, so we are re-writing, re-writing, re-writing when I am ready to just submit and see what happens.

3:36 PM  
Blogger Wayfarer Scientista said...

A friend of mine who is a prof posts his rejection letters on the wall of his office to assure his students that everyone gets rejected.

5:25 PM  
Blogger EcoGeoFemme said...

Bummer about the rejection, but this was a heartening post.

Physioprof commented somewhere that if you don't get rejected sometimes, you're not aiming high enough. I thought that was a good point.

2:51 PM  
Blogger Mad Hatter said...

It's the rare paper indeed that gets accepted without revisions. Sorry to hear about the rejection, but you're in good company!

10:10 PM  
Blogger ScienceGirl said...

Thanks for writing about this! I am still working on getting thicker skin, but starting to realize that my reactions may very well depend on how mean the reviews were. Glad yours were helpful, and better luck next time!

1:49 AM  

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