Q: Should I write to the editor about reconsidering the rejected paper?

Detailed Question -

I submitted to Scientific Reports this February. The editor wrote to me on April 22 requesting a major revision. I resubmitted in a month, but heard this from the editor: ‘According to [the] reviewers’ comment[s], the paper won’t publish.’ However, I found those comments not very reasonable. One reviewer did not seem to know what my paper is really about. I even doubt that they saw my response letter. In this case, can I request the editor to reconsider my paper? If so, whom should I write to, the editor or the EiC?

1 Answer to this question

Sorry to hear that your paper has been rejected, that too, after about four months of being in the process. Rejection, and in fact, the entire publication process, can be quite anguishing for an author. Your frustration and response are understandable, and you may well be accurate in your assessment of the review process for your manuscript. Sometimes, reviews can be quite arbitrary. However, appealing to the journal can only go so far, especially if the reviewer seems insistent on their assessment and is therefore closed to further consideration. Additionally, Scientific Reports is a very popular multidisciplinary journal, and although their acceptance rate is quite high compared with other journals (over 50%), they also receive a lot of manuscripts compared with other journals – and not all will go through.

As you seem quite keen to do so, you could try asking the editor to reconsider their decision. But you must provide rationale for doing so, and it has to be around the merits of the paper, rather than any actions on the part of the reviewer. Also, you should write only to the editor you have been corresponding with, presumably the associate editor (AE). Writing to the Editor-in-Chief (EiC) may not help, as they would anyway have made the final decision on your manuscript. If the AE believes in the merits you have presented, they may reconsider. At times, they may ask you to submit to a related publication. In the case of Scientific Reports, you may also consider their Guest Edited Collections, which are basically papers around certain select topics, but first, check this with the AE in your reconsideration mail.

However, you should not push this, and in fact, should not depend on this. Rather, you should be prepared for the decision not to change. This is also the practical thing to do. As you have already revised your paper once and it’s possibly an improved manuscript now, you should consider submitting it to another journal. Look at it this way. You have already spent four months trying to publish at Scientific Reports. You could simply save time in the potential back-and-forth mails with this journal and use that time to submit to another journal.

And in the worst case that the manuscript is rejected elsewhere, you still need not be dejected. It only means that one manuscript wasn’t up to a journal quality. Your next manuscript may well be more successful!

Hope that helps.

For more insights into the various points discussed above, you may refer to the following resources. One of them is a free e-book, which may help soften the blow of the rejection. :-)