Tolerance for punishment

May 10, 2012

For a given manuscript, how much patience do you have for getting it into the right journal?

Whether it be IF that you seek, or  the cachet of a specific journal in your field, how many tries before you are willing to submit it to a sure-thing, aka, dump journal?

There were some Tweeps the other day that mentioned 7 tries. Now I don’t know if this included resubmits and ultimate rejections or 7 different journals. but dayyum, people. 7?

I’m good for maybe 2 tries before I just dump it someplace I have high confidence will take it.


Perhaps I need a little more patience and/or fortitude?




No Responses Yet to “Tolerance for punishment”

  1. Namnezia Says:

    I agree, we usually go for our top choice, then down to a second choice and then usually for a more likely thing. Unless I really think the reviews were unfair, then I might have tolerance for another round of punishment before going downwards. Fortunately there are a few decent “high confidence” journals in my field that I’m very happy to publish in. So to me it’s not a loss.

    Things get complicated when folks in one’s lab think their paper is better than it is and keep insisting, to their detriment, to keep submitting to journals beyond the grasp of their paper.


  2. drugmonkey Says:

    Sometimes they have to learn the hard way….all you can do is lay out the trade offs as clearly as possible.


  3. drugmonkey Says:

    Also, tell them to quit reading Comrade PhysioProffe!


  4. Morgan Price Says:

    IMHO, anything more than 1 is a waste of time. And if it’s being rejected after review instead of by the editor, I’d call it a huge waste of time.


  5. Dave Says:

    Yeh a lot of the journals I will submit to first have “desk rejections” and they will often tell you in a day or two if they are not interested. If I get one or two rejections like this, I will send it to the society journals, usually with a more positive outcome. Say what you will about the pre-review rejections, but they can save you a lot of time.


  6. Pharm Sci Grad Says:

    I just finished a round of 7… I would have rather not, it was extremely painful for me as first author, but the senior author called the shots on that one. Then again, when do they not…

    It took ~14 months but we got it accepted on the second submission to journal 6. IMHO, that’s what happens when you overshoot the importance and go GlamourMag-level for the first couple – at least those were quick rejections, minus all the reformating issues between submissions. When it went down to more society level journals we finally got it out for review and that is when things got trickier and started taking longer – got rejected at journal five, but the editor sent it to sister journal six that ended up rejecting it after another round of review as well. After a good editing/repackaging and addressing of the reviews we resubmitted to journal six and got it acceptanced.

    This was by far the most bizzare manuscript submission process I’ve ever been involved with, most have been the straightforward one or two journals and go. I hope people don’t do this regularly. That would be positively wretched.
    It makes me wonder about shananagans I say…


  7. Seven is fucken wacke.


  8. DJMH Says:

    Disagree with Morgan, getting rejected by the editor is waste of time; getting rejected by reviewers gives you some useful feedback for revision. I’d agree that after two rejections it’s time to go to the more or less sure thing. But there is a tremendous pressure in certain circles to have the Neuron/Nat Neuro paper so it is not at all surprising to see people try.


  9. Drugmonkey Says:

    And to sure, DJMH, there are genuine positive consequences of landing an acceptance at those journals. But if one is ultimately rejected and ends up in a more pedestrian journal…much time has been wasted. Like I said, a couple of tries is one thing, but 7?


  10. proflikesubstance Says:

    Seven is an enormous waste of time. Any more than two tries at “big” journals is delusional, IMO. Give it a shot and work your way down to get the work out there.


  11. Dr. O Says:

    For a glamour mag, I think 1 would be my limit; high level society journal – a couple of tries, three if I think we have a leg left to stand on. I’m way more interested in getting the paper published at a certain point than winning a glamour mag pub. OTOH, glamour publications aren’t as critical in my field for landing a job/tenure/etc. as they appear to be in others. A balance of quantity and quality is way more important.


  12. Isis the Scientist Says:

    Two rounds, max. Fewer if it is getting to the reviewers and the reviewers reject it.

    (Not that this has happened to yours truly. But, if it had…)


  13. The big first paper from my PhD went through about 6 field-specific journals before we decided to try a journal in a related field and it got picked up immediately. Strangely enough, it was a more respected journal than all of the field-specific ones we had tried first. As a grad student it was a good lesson in writing and publishing as I certainly wasn’t getting that from my grad advisor.


  14. […] him out), asking little questions about mentoring and publications and grants and shnizz.  This particular post caught my attention.  He asks… For a given manuscript, how much patience do you have for […]


  15. Invader Xan Says:

    7 tries would take more tenacity than I think most people I know have! I agree. 2. More than that it seems like a waste of time…


  16. Neuro Polarbear Says:

    Reading the comments, I can’t tell whether the aversion to 7 is a lack of tenacity, or whether there are other strong reasons. Three I can think of immediately are (1) need to get a publication ASAP, (2) moral imperative not to over-burden the reviewers, (3) practical desire not to get a reputation as a journal-spammer.

    These reasons are very good, but they need to be weighed against the need among post-docs to get that paper that will be a ticket to the TT stage. If you are not allowed off the merry-go-round until you get that ticket, then (1) becomes irrelevant, (3) is necessarily less important than getting a job, and with (2) you have to close your eyes and whisper “father forgive me”.

    As one fo the Tweeps (I’m guessing) that DM is referring to, with 7 rejections, I can provide the story. Paper was rejected w/o comment at S+N, then got three positive reviews and one very very angry/negative review at NN, and after several rounds there, was ultimately rejected due to this one reviewer. Then paper got rejected w/o review at PLoS B and CB [possibly due to not matching the topic of these journals]. Got mixed-to-negative reviews at Neuron, got three negative reviews from JON, and then three positive reviews and acceptance at PNAS (direct submission).

    In the end, the reviews helped us improve the paper, but I would argue that the single biggest change we made to the paper was in the cover letter. At Neuron, we encouraged the editor to send to neuroimagers for review, since we thought they would get it. At JON, we practically begged them to send to neuroimagers. Then I had my epiphany, which is that neuroimagers hated this paper. When we submitted to PNAS, our cover letter explained why sending to neuroimagers would be ridiculous. You never can tell who reviews your paper, but I beieve that this made all the difference. In retrospect, I am not sure we were over-shooting (ok probably a little) since PNAS is a pretty good journal, and since the paper has done pretty well for itself since publication.

    Still, this is just one anecdote, and I am surprised about all the commenters with a 2/3 submission limit. I know lots of people who have numbers like 5 and 6 in their collection of anecdotes, and not just from my post-doc lab.

    Anyhow, this is when I was a post-doc. Now that I am calling the shots by myself, I will go down the ladder more quickly.

    And yes, I do feel guilt about spamming the journals, and now am trying to repay my debts by reviewing lots of papers.


  17. The number of journals you send your paper to that decline to send it out for review is irrevelant.


  18. Susan Says:

    So, you’re talking 7 submissions at the JON level, not the triage (S, N, NN, Neuron) level?

    I think it’s important to recognize that the element of randomness doesn’t always diminish as you go down the IF chain; and the severity of reviews may actually increase as you go down the chain. NeuroPolarBear’s comment touches on this.

    These are for the same reason: reviewers at NN, say, can be encouraging and kind (but still reject). These reviewers are likely more established investigators with a more robust view of things. Reviewers at the JON level in my experience tend to be harsher and more demanding, which I think may reflect the career stage and competition level — more bent on proving their own worth.

    On the receiving end, of kind, encouraging NN reviews and then harsh, nitpicky (and even manipulatively wrong) reviews at JON are … not easy to decipher. I’ve also been told that JON’s initial reject rate is so ridiculously high that one should expect to need two submissions to be seriously considered there. Given that, and the degree of randomly harsher reviewing that goes on at the JON level — I can start to sympathize with multiple submissions at that level.


  19. Drugmonkey Says:

    JNeuro is perhaps so exacting because it is a curious hybrid. A real journal, a society journal, a journal most emphatically of importance and respect. ( I argue that it continues to punch harder than its IF would indicate.) Also, a journal that was deposed from its universal appreciation as the top Neurosciences journal by the invention of a couple of genUwine NearGlamourRags, Neuron and NN.

    Then you have the fact that died-in-the-wool GlamourHounds see JNeuro as the dump journal for their CNS, then Neuron/NN descent of the ranks. This has led to some confusion and disagreement, I would say, over what JNeuro is supposed to be. (see recent disruption of the Supplementary Materials bullshittio)

    Next we have the fact that for many real scientists, JNeuro represents the highest “reasonably attainable” standard for their work. They think their stuff would have to be nearly perfect to get in… yours should be as well.

    tldr; Shit gets real at the interface of interests


  20. I argue that it continues to punch harder than its IF would indicate.

    I am absolutely convinced of this. NN and Neuron have inflated IFs due to the huge number of reviews they publish written by high-profile scientists.

    They think their stuff would have to be nearly perfect to get in… yours should be as well.

    Have you asked yourself who is reviewing the dump papers of glamourhounds versus who is reviewing the perfect papers of real scientists?


  21. drugmonkey Says:

    I don’t need to “ask” myself. I know. It is the same approximate distribution of scientists who are submitting to JNeuro. It is my thesis that when you have a disconnect between reviewer type and author/paper type that you get the most outraged comments such as the one above from Susan.

    the degree of randomly harsher reviewing that goes on at the JON level

    this line in particular, PP. I submit to you that one’s assessment of “random” and “harsh” is highly dependent on what one expects give one’s high opinion of one’s paper and the low/high opinion of the journal in question.

    As it happens I’ve recently had reasons to chuckle (after the eventual accept decision, of course) over what I felt was an unbelievably intractable reviewer or two at journals where I felt it was unjustified to hold to X standard given Y Impact Factor. Also reason to be pleasantly surprised at our treatment at the hands of editor and reviewers on the other end of our scale. So I can see where the comment is coming from, I just think Susan fails to see the larger distribution issues.


  22. […] happy. Seriously, a well placed swear word can brighten up my whole day. Linked from that post was this one, which had some interesting discussion in the comments […]


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