Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Manuscript That Just Won't Die

I have a zombie paper. This is the paper that should have been published many months ago, but since then, has accrued numerous rejections.

Needless to say, the last couple weeks have been horrible. Someone in my family was at the ER, that same night my grandmother passed, and I've been accumulating manuscript rejections like its nobody's business.

As for this manuscript, the science behind it is awesome. We've demonstrated something that people could only demonstrate under highly specialized conditions. Now, we can do it more broadly, and that allows there to be some sort of application. The manuscript was first submitted to a high IF journal, it went out to review, and was rejected. The reviews were all-in-all reasonable, but one review came from someone outside my field who didn't quite "get it". I sent the manuscript to a slightly less high IF journal and it was rejected without review. Third, I sent the the manuscript to a slightly less high IF journal than the one before hand, it went out to review, and was rejected this morning. Two reviews were outside the field and didn't "get it" and one reviewer was in the field and "got it."

Perhaps it is the angle on which I am selling this work, but it is not getting the reviews it deserves. When I present this work at conferences, lots of people get excited. It's formed the basis for a few collaborations and lots of exciting ongoing work. I cannot publish subsequent manuscripts until this zombie paper gets out, and a back log is resulting.

I am considering just writing the most recent editor and asking for another reviewer to see if that gets any more traction. I am also dreading the moment at which I will have to tell my student for the third time that his paper has been rejected.


Jenny F. Scientist, PhD said...

Did I ever tell you my favorite-ever reviewer comment? This was on a paper from my old lab, and I saw it with my own eyes. One reviewer's rejection consisted entirely of this: "I didn't understand [the math in] your paper, so I didn't read it."

Barefoot Doctoral said...

No advice, but lots of sympathy. My partner had a series of rejections (he thinks from the same reviewer, outside the field) based almost completely on the reviewer's inability to look at a map and understand whether a natural feature ran east/west or north/south. An important detail for the results in the paper, but the addition of maps in the article didn't seem to help much... He eventually started asking that his papers not be handled by his guess of the reviewer.

Jen said...

I'm so sorry about your grandmother's passing. I hope your family member who was in the ER is ok!

GMP said...

I had a paper like that, I had rewritten and resubmitted it many times. It did eventually get published and it was much better for all the rewrites, even if it didn't seem so at the time. It's one I get the most invited talks for and one for which people seem to really respect me.

Could you just say "fuck it" and rewrite it completely and send it to a journal where you know people will appreciate it? A specialized journal that people who like it at conferences definitely read?

Good luck!