Q: Why do some editors reject papers without stating the reasons for the rejection?

Detailed Question -

We know that rejection of research papers is very common in academic publishing, but what really bothers authors is when their papers get rejected without knowing the reasons for rejection. The decision letter only informs the author about the decision, without any further explanations as to why such a decision was taken. Many editors do this. It has happened to me too a couple of times. Why do editors this? Why don't they care about explaining the reasons for rejection? This is completely unfair to authors.

1 Answer to this question

Hello Amir – Welcome to the forum! And straight off, we can understand your anguish. :-(

The thing is, there are always some ‘bad seeds,’ as they say. Most editors, especially at the quality journals, are usually understanding of researchers/academics and their anxiety and pain over the submission process, and do the best in their capacity – from responding to mails to providing valid reasons for rejection. But yes, some do not. :-/

This could be for any of a variety of reasons.

  • It may be per the journal policy, even an unstated one.
  • Some may believe that if they provide reasons, it opens the door for a back-and-forth discussion over the rejection, a chapter they would rather close soon and keep closed.
  • It may also be an individual approach – based on the perspective or personality of the editor or even the profile of the journal.
  • At other times, they may simply be too busy to provide reasons. They’d rather just say it’s rejected and move on – and hope you do so too.
  • At times, it may also depend on the peer reviewers. If one or even all of the reviewers haven’t provided specific reasons, the editor may simply go with their decision instead of checking with them.

It may, in fact, all come down to the number of manuscripts they have to deal with. With a greater percentage of rejection than acceptance, that’s a lot of manuscripts to provide rejection reasons for – although it’s the right thing to do (as also the courteous thing).

However, as a researcher/academic, you needn’t leave it at that. Just as it’s acceptable to rebut peer review comments, it’s fine to ask the journal for reasons for the rejection. They may still fail/refuse to respond, but at least, you asked – it’s your prerogative. If needed, you may add a note saying how it will help you for future manuscripts/submissions.

At the end of the day though, you can only do so much. If a journal is unresponsive, instead of going on banging at their door, you need to begin banging on the next journal’s door or on your keyboard, turning out the next manuscript. :-)

Hope that helps. We’ve provided some resources here on understanding and dealing with journal rejection.

Additionally, for more perspectives from fellow researchers/academics, you may wish to also pose your query in Researcher Voice, a new group we have on Facebook that brings together researchers, academics, and scholars from the world over, sharing insights, inputs, and also words of cheer with other scholars such as yourself. You may go to the group here: Researcher Voice

All the best for future submissions – with or without reasons for rejection, though we hope the rejections reduce as you go along on your academic journey. Cheerio!