Q: Can you advice on how to respond to a reject decision by a peer reviewer?

Detailed Question -

I wish to write to a journal about their reviewer’s reject decision for my paper. Initially, we received a request for major revision. So, we revised the document and sent it back after Editage’s editing. Then, we found that the journal has asked a third reviewer to review the revised paper. However, it turns out that the scope of the manuscript does not match that of the journal. Here is their comment:

“Dear author,

The paper clearly researches the complex relationships between the risks of international construction and the objectives of sustainable project performance. It uses the meta-network modeling approach to evaluate the weight of each risk. The paper was submitted to the special issue ‘Data Mining in Civil Engineering’ in Advances in Civil Engineering. However, the theme does not match.”

So, I am thinking of writing a letter to the journal along these lines: “Such a practice would waste the resources of journal reviewers and also that of revising authors. Therefore, we would request you to find other reviewers to review the manuscript.”

Do you think this kind of request would be reasonable to put to the journal?

1 Answer to this question

It is unfortunate that you received a reject decision on your manuscript. We can understand how disappointing and frustrating that must be, especially after having to make a major revision.

However, on going through your detailed query (note that we have made some edits for enhanced clarity) and the page describing the special issue ‘Data Mining in Civil Engineering’ in Hindawi’s journal Advances in Civil Engineering, here is what we observe/recommend:

  • This is a special issue of the journal rather than a regular issue. Special issues always have a specific theme, covering only certain topics, whereas regular issues cover any topic relevant to the focus of the journal. The theme for this issue (which is scheduled for publishing on June 1) being ‘Data Mining in Civil Engineering,’ the topics will be, as the page for the issue states, around “state-of-the-art research findings on the latest developments and challenges in the field of data mining for civil engineering.” You can find out more about the focus of the special issue and a few potential topics on the page (in case you haven’t already).
  • Based on this and the focus of your manuscript, it does unfortunately seem that your paper does not match the theme of the special issue.
  • However, as your paper does seem to match the scope of the journal as a whole, you may consider publishing in a regular issue (rather than the special issue).
  • If so, you could write to the editor about this. If they approve, you may have to submit to a regular issue as a new submission. However, the editor would be able to guide you better on how to do this.
  • About the new (third) peer reviewer for the revised version of the manuscript, it is indeed not an ideal situation. It is always preferable that the original reviewer(s) reviews the revised manuscript. However, as this is a special issue, they may have had a new reviewer brought in for a “fresh look” at the manuscript (as well as all submitted manuscripts). This sometimes happens with special issues. Special issues are different from regular issues in several ways, such as by involving guest managing editors, having longer timelines for planning and publishing, and making final decisions on some papers closer to the deadline. So, while this was unfortunate, you may have to accept this as a part of the process for a special issue and leave it at that.
  • For the same reason and also because there may still be a chance to publish with this journal, it would be advisable not to communicate with the journal in the way you have considered in your mail. Adopting a more conciliatory or agreeable tone and manner would also keep the doors open for future publishing (and even peer reviewing) opportunities with them.
  • Finally, while our editing may not have helped your paper get published for the special issue (for the reasons discussed above), hopefully, it will help you for a new submission to a regular issue of the journal or a new submission to some other journal. It is not mentioned in your query which service of ours you utilized for the editing, but we do also offer a journal selection service, which you may consider if needed.

Hope this helps. And good luck with the communication with the journal and also possible new submission (whether to the same or some other journal).

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