Monday, September 7, 2015

Another option for how to shop your paper around

I had a very interesting conversation with a journal editor recently. Normally, when your paper gets solid reviews but gets rejected for “impact” reasons or whatever, the journal will try to funnel you into one of their family journals (“just click the link… just click the link…”). Good deal for them: they get to keep a solid paper, boost a new journal, maybe collect revenue from their open access honeypot, all without much additional work. Good deal for you? Maybe yes, maybe no. But here’s the thing the editor told me: if you got good reviews from some other journal, just take those reviews and send it in with your paper to our journal! Often, if there are no technical flaws, they can accept right away, maybe send for one additional reviewer just to double check. Sort of a personally-managed transfer.

There probably are some thorny ethical or legal issues with doing this, and I have not done it myself. Then again, my feeling, which is completely a guess based on anecdotes, is that some journals are increasingly sending out papers to review that they have no intention of publishing themselves, but want to capture into their family journals. (One thing is that it’s probably easier for editors to get good reviewers that way.) So I'm not sure anyone's hands are clean. Publishing is so demoralizing these days that I think you just do what you have to do.

Anyway, just another option to pass the time until a future of pre-print awesomeness arrives. Maybe we can then just send community feedback to the journal and be done with it!


  1. As an author I've done this. And yes, the paper got accepted the same day. Reason for rejection at Journal A was that we got scooped. Journal B didn't care.
    As a reviewer though, I've been asked to be that extra pair of eyes on a resub. In this particular case the reviews were not so clear cut and also they highlighted a number of errors that I hadn't noticed(!) and that they'd done nothing about. Paper was rejected and I think they'd have been better not to submit the reviews too.
    Take from that what you will, n=1 in both cases.

  2. Interesting to hear that people are doing this informally, and that editors are ok with it. If I were an editor, I'd be a little worried about not knowing who the original referees were (if the original reviews were anonymous), and about the possibility that the authors might not forward all the reviews, or might edit the reviews. In ecology & evolution, Axios Review is a new service that addresses those issues (full disclosure: I'm a member of the Axios Review editorial board):

    Agree with Anonymous above that, if you do this as an author, you had better take the previous reviews seriously, revise your ms appropriately, and include a detailed cover letter explaining the revisions. It's a *very* bad look to just send an unrevised ms to another journal along with reviews pointing out problems that you ignored!