Monday, 28 May 2012

Rejection, rejection everywhere ... (Part 1)


Several people have rather kindly pointed out to me recently that my publication record is pretty impressive – such comments are obviously embarrassing and heartening at the same time. However, rather than puff my chest out with self-inflated importance, I thought it’d be interesting to look back at my rejection record to see what I’ve learned. Having just written it down – which is something I’ve not done before – it struck me as actually remarkably long [cue chest deflating sigh].

Rejection Record
  1. American Journal of Bioethics (2004?): this was an article on rights and responsibilities in human enhancement; interesting topic in my view but pretty far outside of my sphere of expertise as was evident when I got the reviews. Ended up with over 4000 words of referee comments that may have been very helpful if I'd then had the motivation to do something with it; I think I did rejig it somewhat and even think about where to submit next, but just never had the heart. Languishes still… 
  2. Genomics, Society & Policy (2004?): this submission was pretty awful on my part, but I had just had my first ever paper accepted by Bioethics so thought I knew exactly what I was doing (arrogance of youth maybe!). Quite glad this was rejected although might be embarrassed if the referees ever found out it was me so no more about it... 
  3. BioSocieties (2004?): this was an example of my early attempts to get an ‘argument’ published, as opposed to an objective, academic discussion. I was still rather naïve about what journals would publish and thought they’d be interested in a rather dogmatic take on the topic of public relations and biotechnology. Still, it taught me the need to restrain myself, although not for another couple of years and few more attempts to get the ideas published ….
  4. Nature Biotechnology (2004): this languished in the editors’ office for some time, as far as I remember. I didn’t hear anything for 8 months and when I did contact the editors they rejected it out of hand; probably rightly so, I’d add, but they then published a paper on a very close topic soon afterwards. Still, this was written in my trenchant period (see BioSocieties and Genomics, Society & Policy above) so probably deserved all it got …. 
  5. Journal of Medical Ethics (2005?): again, trying to write for another field of expertise, and failing to pay off. Referees didn’t like it and one of them even called John Dupre a “controversial sociologist” which I found slightly amusing. Still, eventually got a significantly revised version published in Genomics, Society & Policy once I had combined it with the remnants of the submission to Ethics (see below)… 
  6. Ethics (2006?): this was rejected by the editors as unsuitable or not good enough - maybe a fair assessment, I can't tell as I never received any referee comments on it. It was a response to an article the journal had published by Nik Bostrom and Toby Ord. I revised the paper and combined it with some ideas in a submission to the Journal of Medical Ethics (also rejected – see above) before submission to Genomics, Society and Policy. Again, I guess I overestimated my ability to engage with a wholly different field of expertise although it still got accepted somewhere in the end ….
  7. Economy & Society 1 (2006?): a follow-up, in some ways, to the BioSocieties paper, but much more theoretical and as a consequence a bit of a mish-mash of ideas as one of the editors (I think?) not-so-kindly pointed out. In the process they managed to tell me that “the concept of ideology is basically dead”, which I guess would be news to some people …. 
  8. Economy & Society 2 (2007?): a review essay of Freakonomics and some other ‘popular economics’ books which didn’t suit the journal I guess. Didn’t really get anything useful back from the editors in terms of what was wrong with it so can't tell how off I was with it. Generally I think that my style doesn’t really suit the journal but who knows, maybe I'll try again at some point ... 
  9. Progress in Human Geography 1 (2007): one of my most frustrating experiences with the whole publishing business. It took three rounds of revision (and referee comments) for this paper to get finally rejected by the journal. The first set of revisions led to one referee then changing their mind and saying that the flaws in the paper actually came to light more once it had been rewritten – annoyed to say the least! I managed to rejig the paper quite significantly and finally get it published in New Genetics & Society five years after the original submission... 
  10. Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy & Society (2008): this was a little bit of a mis-directed submission. We aimed for the wrong journal basically, one that is totally focused on special issues. Didn’t even get sent to referees and was rejected outright as unsuitable for the specific special issue ('World is not flat', if memory serves). Still, we then resubmitted the paper to Journal of Economic Geography where it was published after some revisions so all's well that ends well …
  11. Social Studies of Science (2009): this one was especially irritating. Two good referee comments with barely any changes requested and then one referee who waffled, made vague criticisms, or simply disagreed with some points in the argument but without saying why (or how!). So we revised the paper and it was then sent out for re-review. This included totally new referees along with the negative first reviewer who managed to find a whole set of new issues wrong with the paper they had failed to mention first time round. This was my first experience of editors sending papers out for two-rounds of review (by different referees) and it struck me as simply asking for rejection. On the other hand, we managed to turn the paper into three other submissions (after rejection by Science & Public Policy – see below – of the same original paper), two of which have been published (CPS and STHV) …
  12. Socio-Economic Review (2009): a revised version of the Progress 1 paper (above) that got a revise and resubmit decision from the editors before being rejected after a second round of reviews from totally new referees - the original ones couldn't do it, were ill, who knows. Annoying, but it happens ….
  13. Science & Public Policy (2010): a resubmission of the paper to Social Studies of Science (above). Didn’t get any further with S&PP though …
  14. Global Environmental Change (2010): again an attempt to write for an entirely different field of expertise (which I keep on doing for some reason!) and one that was (probably) rightly rejected, although I think the paper makes a worthwhile contribution and I’m aiming to resubmit it somewhere else soon. It did need work though so can’t fault the referees too much…
  15. Progress in Human Geography 2 (2010): a second stab at getting something into Progress, but with the same result. The referees both thought there were problems with the paper; I could have gone for revise and resubmit if I wanted to, but considering my previous experience I decided to find another journal – although that didn’t make much of a difference! Still in the processing of working out how to get this paper into a referee-acceptable form ….
  16. Journal of Economic Geography (2010): submitted after the paper received a reject and resubmit decision from Progress in Human Geography (see above). Maybe I should have revised it a little bit first, but I just wanted to try and get it out there as quickly as possible. Result = rejection. I'm currently revising it again for resubmission to Economic Geography after receiving slightly more encouraging reviews and editorial comments, although it may still suffer the same fate (hopefully not!) … 
  17. Antipode (2011): a somewhat frustrating one, as can be seen from this post on my website. We thought it’d be accepted but we obviously pissed off one of the referees who wanted us to reorient the whole argument around the ideas of William Baumol (even though only one small sub-section was relevant to Baumol’s arguments). I’m still smarting in fact (my co-author is more sanguine and less easily riled than me), but every cloud has a silver lining as we are now revising the paper after getting some nicer reviews from referees for Progress in Human Geography. So, fingers-crossed…
  18. New Left Review (2012): most recent rejection and one which is funny in its own way. I got the following short email back from an Assistant Editor: “Editors here read it with interest, but regret that, due to pressure on the journal’s pages from previously commissioned material, it will not be possible to publish it. But we wish you well with it elsewhere.” My reading of that is that they thought it was crap but were too polite to say so … 
Ok, I think that is it - can't be certain though so may remember some more rejections over the next few weeks. My next post will cover what I have learned from all this ….

[Update 14 Aug 2012 ....

19. Monthly Review (2012): basically same paper as NLR although cut by about 1000 words to make the argument more succinct. Didn't do any good mind. Interestingly I got a pretty similar response to NLR: "The editorial committee appreciated your essay but, unfortunately, they did not feel that it fit in Monthly Review’s publishing plans. We get many submissions every month, but are only able to publish a small number of them." Will try again somewhere else [sigh] ...]

[Update 13 September 2012 ...

20. Human Geography and 21. Studies in Political Economy (2012): tried both of these journals with the paper I sent to New Left Review / Monthly Review and didn't get anywhere with either ... considering that I've sent it to four places now, I think I can safely assume that the paper needs a major overhaul. One to come back to I guess].

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this. I linked to it in my blog post about why grad students should compile their own CV of Failures. http://gradlogic.org/cv-failures

    ReplyDelete