Q: How to deal with a rejection based on an unfair review?
My manuscript was rejected based on one of three reviews. Two reviews were really positive, stating that the study makes an important contribution to the field. The third review was totally unsound. The reviewer stated: "English wording is horrible," "too much numbers," "research should not end up in a statistical comparison." Based on the third review, (the other two reviewers asked for minor changes) the editor decided to reject our paper. On questioning why, we got the answer that the review results were too bad. Reviewer three is right. Only numbers and statistics are no research. How to deal with such a decision?
As an author, it always hurts when your paper is rejected. Most authors feel that their paper is of very good quality as they have put in their best efforts, so naturally, it is difficult for them to cope with rejection. In cases where the rejection comes after conflicting reviewer comments, the authors are more likely to believe in the verdict that was in favor of their paper. This is human psychology. However, you must remember that the editor has probably made a more objective evaluation of your paper. Additionally, each journal has its own standards, and the editor also has to consider those before accepting any paper. Therefore, please think things through carefully and try to assess whether the rejection has been truly unfair.
Authors have the right to appeal against the editorial decision. However, there are quite a few things that you need to consider carefully first. To begin with, appeals take a lot of time. Most journals have a proper appeals process in place. So once you appeal to the editorial board, the editors will discuss your appeal and most likely send the paper for another round of peer review, this time to a new set of reviewers as they would want a fresh perspective. Additionally, the editorial decision after peer review might also take some time since it would involve discussions to ensure that the judgment is fair. Even after such an elaborate process, there is no guarantee that your paper will be accepted eventually. In fact, in most cases, appeals are turned down. Thus, you might end up losing valuable time. On the other hand, if you submit your paper to another journal (of course, after incorporating the reviewer comments), it will take around the same time for peer review and perhaps stand a better chance of getting accepted. Therefore, please ensure that you have a really strong case for appealing that is worth investing the time.
However, if you still strongly disagree with the editorial decision, you can go ahead and appeal against it. Usually, appeals against the editorial decision are made to the editorial board. You can write to the editorial board, explaining that you disagree with the editorial decision and giving a point-by-point argument against the reviewer and editor’s views. Make sure that your arguments are backed by solid evidence. Also, remember to be very polite and objective in your communication and not use accusatory or emotional language.
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Being rejected makes your self esteem low, the self doubts, and the insecurities. However, think of it as a constructive criticism and that there is a bigger blessing that will come for you.