Question of the Day

Apr 17 2015 Published by under Careerism

Do you keep track of your manuscript rejections in any systematic way? If so, how? 

40 responses so far

  • A. Tasso says:

    Yep. I have a spreadsheet and I track these data obsessively. To date I have 81 acceptances and 116 rejections (69 of which are desk rejects) to date. I also track dates, etc. My median time to acceptance is 120 days, and my median time to rejection is 20 days.

  • odyssey says:

    What manuscript rejections?

  • Ola says:

    I have copies of every version of every manuscript, usually in sub-folders with the name of the journal rejected from. I'm sure I could put together a spreadsheet of the type mentioned above, but why? Who would want to read such a thing, other than a manic depressive looking for suicidal inspiration?

  • AcademicLurker says:


  • newbie PI says:

    subfolders for each submission. what's the point of a spreadsheet?

  • physioprof says:

    Whenever one of our papers gets rejected, I go on a blackout drinking binge that doesn't end until it gets accepted somewhere else.

  • Neuro-conservative says:

    Who needs a spreadsheet? Each rejection is literally *seared* in my memory, much like John Kerry's combat experience in Cambodia.

  • Philapodia says:

    I keep empty bottles of scotch on my bookshelf to remind me of each rejection. Glenlivit 10 for IF<8 journals, Glenlivit 18 for CNS rejections.

  • eeke says:

    Acceptances only. Rejections can kiss my ass along with the reviewers who authored them.

  • Morgan Price says:

    Nope. What's the upside?

  • DJMH says:

    I keep them all in my head, as drinking stories to horrify the young 'uns with.

  • qaz says:

    I think the bigger question is do you keep track of your manuscript acceptances and how do you maintain that database in all the dozen different social media we are now required to keep up to date (departmental CV (*), med-school CV (*), university CV (*), website available for download, google scholar, myNCBI, pubmed, NIH-PMCID, scopus, etc. etc. etc.)?

    * Yes, these are all different formats!

    PS. @ATasso - how has that database helped you?

  • mytchondria says:

    I mark them with blood extracted from the dead bodies of suspected reviewers.

  • Grumble says:

    What rejections?

  • drugmonkey says:

    qaz- you don't spend the next two hours after you see the accept letter in a celebratory binge of updating all your documents and websites?

  • potnia theron says:

    When I was a sprout, I did things like tracking. But, I came to see that it was something of a waste of time. Maybe some of you can get something out of it. But unless you are submitting 20 papers/yr, which I'm not, it doesn't make sense in terms of cost/benefit analysis of time spent.

  • OfcourseNot says:

    I instantly fire the first author trainee and then immediately add their name to my CV as an ex-trainee to enrich my mentoring list. That way, I get to keep track of manuscript rejections while also enriching my CV and turning a negative into a positive.

  • qaz says:

    @DM - too many accepts to keep track of. 🙂

    Or maybe it's just that I'm too drunk celebrating to not mistypppe the updates.

  • toto says:

    Physioprof: I hope that whatever manuscript you've been pushing for the last few years gets accepted eventually.

    My rejection-tracker is my gmail inbox. Beyond that, I'm not sure what benefit there could be to it?

  • Brain says:

    What about rejections where you convince editor to reconsider a revised version? I've just started being more assertive with editors after receiving a rejection. I took me a long time to realize that not everyone accepts rejection.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Me too Brain, me too. I contest them way more frequently now and since the response is no longer zero, I plan to continue.

  • cookingwithsolvents says:

    "tracking" is inherent to my e-filing system (folder for the paper, sub-folder for the journal submission, sub-sub for figures, any revisions, proofs etc. Absolutely necessary so you don't cross versions, especially when you have a larger collaboration or a lot of figure edits/versions). I have not returned to compile the stats.

    I'm really curious, why do you ask DM? I recall a blog post by someone, perhaps you or PP along the lines of 'if you aren't getting rejected every once in a aren't aiming high enough'. We aim high when we think it's legit. We get in sometimes, don't others. Some of the ones that "high IF" journals passed on became really high profile in a slightly more specialized journal so I'm happy because the actual work is likely being read by more people in the field than it would have been in a "higher" IF journal.

  • AcademicLurker says:


    Now I'm tempted to get the stats from pubmed and see how well, if at all, the average cites/year of my papers correlates with IF of the journals they were published in.

  • NeuroAlex says:

    DM, Brain: What is your strategy when contesting a rejection?

  • drugmonkey says:

    I asked because some Twitt asked. I thought it was ridiculous at first.

  • Grumble says:

    I can't speak for DM and Brain (well, only my own brain), but the few times where I've appealed a reject effectively were cases where there was something very specific I could point to that would address the reviewers' criticisms. For instance, one paper we submitted was very closely related to another one that was in submission. The reviewers complained about the dependence of our paper to the other one, and they clearly wanted the other paper to be accepted first. So the minute the other paper was in press, we told the editor, who allowed us to resubmit, and the reviewers were much more positive. In other successful cases, we had specific answers to each criticism, addressing almost all of the major ones with new analyses and only arguing about the validity of 1 or 2 of the reviewers' points.

    What hasn't worked is whining about how the reviewers or editors missed the significance of the paper, or how the criticisms shouldn't be considered important enough to sink the paper. YMMV, however: I have heard plenty of stories that this approach is effective among the BSD crowd.

  • Brain says:

    So far I have had success with specific criticisms listed in rejection as described by Grumble. Just tried first appeal on significance where comments (positive) did not match up with check boxes for significance. We'll see how that goes.

  • drugmonkey says:

    I think I lean on a split review (if none of the reviewers liked it, seems pointless to argue) and some clearly rebuttable points made by the antagonistic reviewer. Harder to argue on purely subjective grounds wrt impact or importance.

  • Masked Avenger says:

    For me, all of my manuscripts have a target journal and version number in their titles. As simple as that.

  • jmz4gtu says:

    One of my grad papers was successfully appealed based on demonstration that the most critical reviewer had a poor understanding of the field. They falsely presented opinions as consensus and made several claims that were just flat out wrong. Hopefully reviewers like this aren't that common, but doing a point-by-point of all the mistakes, with relevant citations, can be effective. After doing this, from the letter that came back from the editor you could tell she was a little appalled they let this person review for them. We got another reviewer, addressed the other two's concerns, and it was in within a month.

  • cookingwithsolvents says:


    Now that you can get the # of independent IP's that have downloaded (read) an article you can get "real-time" stats on how many eyeballs are reading your article. My sample size is small (would that I had hundreds of articles that I'd have published all ready...) but I have seen VERY significant differences between 'slightly more specialized journal vs 'high IF general journal' (NOT C/N/S level, though). On the order of 50-100 times as many 'clicks' i.e. reads in some cases. One article has more 'clicks' than almost anything else I've published since they started tracking clicks (or making them available) in several months.

    Now, citations will tell if anyone actually gives a crap. But they are reading, that is true.

    I also decided after "wasting" two hours with that crap that I wouldn't do it because I'd drive myself crazy and waste a lot of time. Tooo tempting for the scientist in me and I get paid to do other types of science!

  • Laurent says:

    Made me wonder about these. After calculation, appears that my cumulated reject is 0.72 by ms and my cumulated resub is 0.36. But if I trim the outlier that was so hard to get into acceptance, both rates are exacting 0.4 and 0.3 respectively.

    I have no idea if these are common experience rates, but for sure I stopped pushing up ms early, and I am very slow in ms management, usually spending far too much time on rewriting.

  • drugmonkey says:

    I spend far too much time on "not getting around to resubmitting".

  • Laurent says:

    Actually, reviewing makes me feel bad, because I ask for resub most of the time at best. To the point I almost made a party when I eventually got a ms that I recommanded acceptance as such.

    But there was such a difference in quality between this manuscript and all the others...

    Maybe people are submitting without enough time alloted to re-reading and minor improves, but it makes such a difference in the end.
    And maybe some people are spending too much time freaking out on their writing skills that they lose precious time compared to average scientist.

    To non-native speakers like me, this also makes me cringe awkward when I read papers from compatriots that I don't even understand given their low writing standards (don't make sense even accounting for conspecific language structures).

  • AcademicLurker says:

    Off topic more or less but...

    I'm the managing editor for a manuscript and it seems that no one in the entire field is willing to review it. I think it was assigned to me because I published on this system years ago, so I don't really know the field or the main players these days.

    Are these authors just despised by everyone in this area? Has anyone else had this experience handling a manuscript before?

  • drugmonkey says:

    That is possibly a reason for a desk reject, AL. No?

    Presumably you've tried over some interval of weeks? I wouldn't assume a failure to get any neuroscientists to agree in the weeks right before the SfN Annual Meeeting meant anything, for example.

  • AcademicLurker says:

    Oh I've had a hard time finding reviewers before. Especially around holidays (or, as you note, major meetings) it can be tough.

    This is well beyond anything I've encountered in the past.

  • odyssey says:

    Have you asked the authors for more reviewer suggestions? I think DM's right - unless you feel qualified to do a thorough review yourself, this is a desk reject. With full explanation to the authors re not being able to find reviewers of course.

  • AcademicLurker says:


    Many who declined suggested alternates but all of the alternates have declined as well. This has been going for over a month and I've now worked through a large enough swath of the field that I'm starting to entertain the possibility (as I mention above) that this author is persona non grata in this community for some reason.

    Desk reject will probably be the outcome. I just find the whole experience weird as I haven't seen anything like this as an editor before.

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