Levels of Rejection

I was at the “Unsolved Problems in Magnetospheric Physics Workshop” in Scarborough, England this last week. It was an excellent meeting and I highly commend Mick Denton and crew for putting on a brilliant conference with lots of time for discussion. In case you were wondering, yes, I think that even my talk went well, as it prompted a lively debate.

Here is Editor Larry Kepko’s hand holding aloft a bottle of “magnetosbeer,” specially labeled by a local brewery just for the conference:


He carried that bottle a couple of miles and up a hill in order to get that photo!

Something came up in conversations during the week: it was lamented to me that JGR Space Physics has gone the way of GRL in sending authors “reject with encourage to resubmit” decision letters. Yes, we do send out such letters. It was brought to my attention that these letters are worded rather nicely, indicating that the paper is being “declined publication” (i.e., rejected) but that the Editor would like to see it resubmitted to JGR Space Physics when it is suitably revised. We even ask for responses to the reviews. This sounds a lot like a major revision decision, except that it is assigned a new paper number upon resubmission. The complaint is that this decision is done simply to increase our rejection rate and submission-to-decision time. Perhaps others of you feel the same way as those that expressed this to me directly. Therefore, I would like to directly and openly address it.

First of all, I’d like to acknowledge that this opinion of the “reject and encourage resubmission” decision is a valid complaint. At first glance, it certainly does look like a major revision decision, just with a new paper number next time. That is not our intent.

I use this option when two conditions are met. The first condition is that the reviewers noted numerous and substantial concerns about the study. Therefore, I am judging the paper to be demonstrably not ready for acceptance and publication. I have written a couple of times about why I reject papers. The paper needs an overhaul and I am making the judgment call that it will be a significantly different paper upon resubmission, therefore making it a new submission and invalidating the original initial submission date. There second condition that must be met is that I think the core elements of the study are worthy of eventual publication in JGR Space Physics. The decision letter, therefore, not only informs about rejection but also indicates my eagerness to see it again. Yes, it was rejected, and I think you have a lot of work to do, but yes, I also want you to give it another chance in JGR Space Physics.

Asking for responses to the reviews actually helps you speed your previously rejected paper towards acceptance. That’s why we ask you to do it. If you supply them, then we will definitely seek out the original reviewers. You can also ask for us to not send it to those reviewers. In the end, we may or may not use the original reviewers.

We have another decision-to-reject letter does not include these words of encouragement. In that letter, we state that we are providing the reviews in case you want to consider them as you mull your options of sending the paper to another journal. You can still resubmit a rejected paper for which I sent such a letter, but my experience tells me it will be a challenge to get through the reviewers.

I would also like to acknowledge that I believe that no one likes to receive a rejection letter. Here’s a website I found with a graphic that pretty much sums it up:


You spent time on the study and writing the paper. Rejection stinks. It’s okay to wallow in misery for a day.

Finally, I would like to dispel the erroneous notion that I am under pressure to achieve a particular rejection rate or time-to-publication interval. AGU places no pressure on us to hit any targets with either of these statistics. We do our best to keep JGR Space Physics a high-quality journal that publishes significant new contributions to the field, while also moving your papers along through the editorial process as smoothly and quickly as possible.


One thought on “Levels of Rejection

  1. Pingback: GRL Editorial Policy | Notes from the JGR-Space Physics Editor-in-Chief

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