Q: Is it possible for a manuscript to be accepted if it was rejected after the second round of revision?

Detailed Question -

I first submitted an article to BMC Public Health on July 24th, 2017. The associate editor (this journal has open peer review system; thus, I could know who was the reviewer) requested revisions twice, which I complied with, but the final decision was a rejection. I received the decision by mail on March 20th, 2018. It took almost 8 months.

According to the reviewer, the paper did not contain the right message and needed a significant overhaul to be published. I fully respect the reviewer's decision, but I believe the request for second revision was unreasonable considering the final decision was rejection of the article. I sent an email requesting to know the reason as to why the reviewer was not aware of the inappropriateness of my article at the time the first review was sent, or after first revision as well, to formally protest that request of a second revision was unreasonable, and to state that the authors then carried out unnecessary work for the second revision.

The email was transmitted to the senior editor, she gave us the opportunity to resubmit a revised manuscript in form of a new submission. I made a new submission on March 24th, 2018.

My recent submission remains under editorial assessment according to the online submission system. On April 17th, 2018, I sent the first mail to editorial office to inquire when I might receive the decision. I received a reply from the editorial office that my mail has been sent to the assistant editor, but I have not received a further reply. I sent a second mail on May 2nd, requesting that the email be forwarded to the senior editor and also inquiring by when I can receive the decision. In both the first and second emails, I mentioned that the paper is important for the corresponding author in terms of promotion and the decision is needed as soon as possible.

I also mentioned that if the final decision consumes much more than the time I expected, I must seriously consider withdrawing the submission from BMC Public Health and submit to another journal as soon as possible even if the other journal's impact factor is lower. But, I have not received any reply yet.

Please give me good advice.


1 Answer to this question

Unfortunately, sometimes manuscript do get rejected after the second or even third round of revisions. This can happen due to multiple reasons such as:

  1. The authors might not have adequately addressed all the questions raised by the reviewers.
  2. There might be new problems that appear or existing issues become clear for the first time when the revisions are made.
  3. There might be a disconnect between the reviewer’s opinions and the results presented because the results and conclusions might not be very convincing even after one or two revisions.
  4. The scope of the journal might not have been completely compatible with the study under consideration and this might not have been known till revisions are made.
  5. There might have been a publication/result that might have been published or presented which might make the current results redundant.

I am not sure what might have transpired in this case since decisions are entirely dependent on the editor. Your last communication with the journal was on 2nd May 2018 and journals usually take a minimum of one week to respond. I would suggest, since you have already waited for such a long time, it would be better for you to write to the journal one or two more times before withdrawing the manuscript because it would take a longer time for peer-review process and decision, if you submit to a new journal.

If the journal still doesn't respond, you can ask your supervisor to write to the editor on your behalf requesting an early decision since your career progression is dependent on this paper. As your supervisor and a senior researcher, if he/she puts in a word on your behalf, the editor might feel obliged to minimize further delays.

I understand how important this is for your career progression; but, academic publishing can sometimes be daunting and a time-consuming process. Best wishes to you and hope you get a positive reply soon.

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