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It’s bound to happen. You receive a rejection from the journal where you submitted your most recent research manuscript. The very first question you may have is, “Should I contest/appeal the editor’s decision about my paper rejection, or should I simply choose another journal?”
In this article, we’ll talk about whether appealing an editorial decision is a smart thing to do, and how to do it the right way. We’ll also touch on what your appeal letter to a journal editor should include, as well as other options you might have.
Dealing With a Negative Editorial Decision
The first thing to do when you get a rejection is to take a deep breath and consider your options. You don’t need to, and shouldn’t, make a rash decision. Weigh all of your options and look at the merits of the rejection. Depending on the journal, you may even be offered to resubmit the manuscript, with pending changes and/or recommendations based on the opinion of the editor or editorial board.
Keep in mind that appeals are rarely successful, and typically only work if you provide new data or evidence that alleviates any of the concerns raised by the journal. Your appeal must be a simple and concise rational argument, based on facts over emotions. If the editorial board of the journal has raised legitimate concerns and questions about your research, take them seriously. Other journals may likely raise the same concerns, so even if your appeal to the first journal is not accepted, your extra work is often worth it in the long run.
Frankly, most of the time, an appeal, even if it is offered, is given lower priority than a new submission. Don’t expect any response or feedback for at least several weeks, and often longer. Keep in mind that your appeal is an effort to change someone’s mind. We all know how difficult that can be, so if your appeal is of high quality, and you still receive a rejection, look into tightening up your manuscript based on the advice you received from the journal.
Remember to not take a rejection personally. Likewise, don’t make your appeal personal. There are usually criteria used when making editorial decisions, and just because one manuscript is rejected doesn’t mean that that editor or journal won’t consider future submissions.
Does contesting or appealing an editor’s decision harm my reputation?
This depends on how you approach the appeal process. If you are addressing the concerns of the editor or editorial office and resubmitting your manuscript in a professional manner, it is unlikely that appealing an editor’s decision will harm your reputation. In many cases, a resubmitted manuscript is published with the original journal. So, it’s almost always worth the effort to argue for your research and manuscript, addressing any concerns that were raised.
If, however, your appeals are unprofessional, written as personal attacks against the reviewers and editors, or you consistently submit for appeals without addressing the concerns raised by the journal, you may damage your reputation.
The Appeal Letter to Journal Editor
How do you respond to a paper rejection? If you’ve decided that you want to contest the decision about your paper, you may be able to do so, but only if the editor allows it. Not all do. In that case, you have to look at other options, including submitting your manuscript to a different journal.
As discussed above, you’ll only want to prepare an appeal under certain circumstances, namely that the journal has made some specific suggestions, and is open to you resubmitting your revised manuscript. Contact the journal’s editorial office, most often through an online submissions system, and request another opportunity to submit your manuscript.
In your request, explain clearly why you are disagreeing with the decision of the editorial board, and provide any new data or information you would like the editor to consider. You should NOT, under any circumstances, repeat what you’ve already stated in your manuscript. Any request for a resubmission should be based solely on new information, data, and even additional research that you’ve conducted.
If the editors have made specific references to perceived shortcomings in your manuscript, you’ll need to, obviously, address them. For every comment made by the reviewers and editors, you’ll want a pointed and concise response. Reviewers are human, and may make a mistake when assessing your research. In that case, provide evidence to counter the assessment. In the case of suspected reviewer bias, you’ll need to tread carefully and keep any immediate emotional response out of your appeal. Again, use logic and data to counter any possible bias.
When to Submit Your Manuscript to Another Journal
If, despite your best efforts, your manuscript is still rejected, it’s time to look at other options. Very rarely will a journal offer more than one appeal, and in that case, you should consider submitting your manuscript to a different journal.
Talk to colleagues in your field about other journals that you may not be as familiar with, and that enjoy a good reputation in the field. Look at their requirements for submission, and adjust your current manuscript accordingly. Sometimes this involves formatting your manuscript differently. You may also want to get assistance in reviewing your original manuscript for things like logic and flow, and have it reviewed by a professional proofreader and editor.
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