How many times will you try for publication?

Drugmonkey has been writing tiny, Physioprof-esque posts lately (perhaps picking on the Pitties has worn him out), asking little questions about mentoring and publications and grants and shnizz.  This particular post caught my attention.  He asks…

For a given manuscript, how much patience do you have for getting it into the right journal?

Whether it be IF that you seek, or  the cachet of a specific journal in your field, how many tries before you are willing to submit it to a sure-thing, aka, dump journal?

There were some Tweeps the other day that mentioned 7 tries. Now I don’t know if this included resubmits and ultimate rejections or 7 different journals. but dayyum, people. 7?

I wrote there that my inkling is two tries.  Two tries max.  First, Mama needs some damned publications these days, so I approach publication like trying to get sex at a bar.  I might shoot high once and then just get the shit in.  Thankfully, my “shoot highs” basically always work, so I need not settle for journal stank…

But, then I got to thinking more and more about the poor soul who sent out a paper seven times and had a desire to continue on with my hilarious analogy.

Seven damned tries!!!  At that point, it can’t just be that Reviewer #3 is a cockweasel.  After 6 rejections you have to start thinking that the problem might just be you.  An ugly shirt.  Smelly cologne.  Dead puppies in the back of your truck. Shitty data.  Certainly at some point in those submissions a reasonable author must stop and think, “Hmmm.  Perhaps these reviewers have a point?”  You get the dead puppies out of the back of the truck, change your cologne and do what you need to in order to get it in.  And, chances are, the reviewers were right about the creepiness of the dead puppies and the stinkiness of the cologne and the shittiness of the data.

Also, submitting six times is not like approaching six different girls at six different bars.  It’s like approaching the same girl at a different bar each time,  over and over, and saying, “Wanna fuck?” “Wanna fuck?” “Wanna fuck?” “Wanna fuck?” “Wanna fuck?” “Wanna fuck?” “Wanna fuck?” (I think that was seven times).  I mean, maybe after seven tries and a couple of cocktails the poor dude gets a pity fuck, but certainly no one’s coming out the other side feeling great about it. You mostly just end up looking pathetic.

Fields are pretty small and reviewer pools are small, so chances are you’re getting reviewed by at least one of the same people over and over.  And, having been the person who gets a paper back at a different journal, after I have reviewed it at another journal, and finding that the authors did none of the shit I suggested, I can tell you that shit pisses me off.

Figure 1: But, maybe that’s just how you roll… 

So, really.  Seven times?  Seven times?  If it takes seven times then you should just give up now and start drinking alone.

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21 responses to “How many times will you try for publication?

  1. I’ve submitted 4 times, that’s the most. But I always aim very high first. Also, desk-rejects are not the same as rejects post-review, right? I have some crap journals on my CV, but some pretty good ones too.

  2. Pingback: Quotes from the blogosphere: Patience for publishing in the “right” journal: like trying to get sex at a bar… « The MolBio Hut

  3. Seven is quite a bit, I’d say 4 but what if the work itself isn’t the problem? What if they say that “this is not right for our journal” or this is all great but we would like X and Y which would take about 3 more years to accomplish? You spend 6 years in grad school only to be told that what you have done isn’t enough to be published at all and you need more but you need a publication to graduate.

  4. Isis the Scientist

    If you’re getting rejected that many times for goodness of fit with a journal, are you really thinking hard about what the right journal is?

  5. just a postdoc

    Love the analogy, especially after working for someone who MUST PUBLISH EVERYTHING, but rushes out half-ass papers that get repeatedly rejected from multiple journals. I think she is on submission # 5 with one manuscript… and these rejections are not from the “good journals” in our field either. I’m walking a fine line of trying to be sympathetic when rejections come back and wanting to say “that paper really does suck and the reviewers have a point.” I would rather spend a bit more time upfront getting a complete data set and writing a solid paper than spend years in limbo with resubmissions.

  6. Your analogy is not completely accurate. It’s not that the poor Dude approached the same chick 7 times saying “Wanna fuck?” each time and that’s all. It would be more like:
    Author (A): “Wanna fuck?”
    Journal (J): well…. I don’t like your shirt. Change it and we’ll talk.
    Dude goes back home, changes, back to the bar (taxis involved, running, etc etc)
    A: I changed my shirt, Wanna fuck?
    J: Nice shirt, but you smell. Take a shower, and we’ll talk.
    Dude goes back home, showers, fix his shirt, back to the bar (taxis involved, running, etc etc).
    A: I shower and I changed my shirt, Wanna fuck?
    J: very nice, but your cologne is not that good. Get a new one and we’ll talk…
    Dude gets a new cologne, goes back home, showers, puts on cologne, fix his shirt, back to the bar (taxis involved, running, etc etc).
    …….
    Every time, Dude thought that he had a really good chance.
    I never sent a manuscript 7 times to the same journal. But I did have a bad experience while I was doing my PhD. A reviewer kept asking more and more things (like 3 revisions in a row). The last time the editor decided to tell us the name of the reviewer (!) and told us not to worry about his demands anymore. Later I found such reviewer at a meeting, and he told me “I don’t believe any results unless it comes from lab X or my lab). So, sometimes the chicks are at fault.

  7. You are missing the consideration that it might be you…but no change of shirt, puppies or AXE body spray is going to put you in her league. Ever. Unless you come back with a hit record, a top grossing movie or Mitt Romney sized Cayman accounts.

  8. Simple method: after each rejection, find the next appropriate journal with an impact factor 1/2 that of the last one.

  9. This could not possibly be more perfectly said.

  10. “Physioprof-esque”?

    Long reads are soooo 2010.

  11. my “shoot highs” basically always work

    Then you are definitely not shooting high enough. There is a huge difference between an editor reject without review and after review, which makes your analogy is terrible. Sending a manuscript to a journal and having it rejected without review isn’t like trying to get laid at a bar and failing, it’s like throwing crappes in Vegas. That particular failure has zero predictive value for the likelihood of failure at the next journal.

  12. Isis the Scientist

    From the twitterz it is apparent to me that there are plenty for whom analogy is very applicable.

  13. So do you start each paper off at Science or Nature, PP?

  14. I’ve submitted 4 times too… I was aiming high to begin with because it was the paper I was most proud to have written! I admire anyone with the tenacity to keep going 7 times. Almost every scientist I know who has had a paper in Science or Nature has told me they submitted several manuscripts to these journals before finally one was accepted….so I guess the only way to do it is to keep trying.

  15. I have a couple papers that had about 5 submissions. In one case it was – Nature, Science, PNAS – all said no without review (ok, thought I’d ask). The next jrnl (very high impact, broad biology journal) said cool but not quite cool enough and #5 (a top jrnl in my field) said yes. There was no problem with the paper’s the science but they just didn’t find it *wow* enough. Still my feeling was that it was very good (and it has gotten some media attention) and it was worth trying. The value of Nature/Science/PNAS is high enough and the turn-around short enough to justify it. I try for a mix of shooting some of the most broadly interesting stuff at those kinds of journals and then submitting other things to good but more discipline-specific journals where they’re more likely to get in on the first round but even there sometimes you get a review that deems the science worthy but points put someone (usually them) did something vaguely similar 10 years ago so this doesn’t need to be published. I’m not going to toss a ms because of that and so I send it somewhere else. In my field there are a lot of rejections based on reviewer’s perception of impact of the work. Sometimes they’re right, in which case stepping down a notch makes sense, sometimes they’re full of shit. I have had papers rejected from lower impact journals and published in higher impact journals because the first jrnl didn’t see the novelty of the work but could only see that it was sort of like what Jim-Bob did back in ’84. Two tries seems too little to get the best bang for your research buck.

    On the other hand if there are substantive comments I always revise and also take into account any editorial suggestions/corrections and I also dislike authors who resubmit without at least attempting to address comments I made on previous versions. So if I get a reviewer again it’s unlikely they’re seeing the same manuscript.

  16. One missing but key factor: reviewers seem to get pickier as you go down the IF chain.

    In bar analogy, the hot ones aren’t that nitpicky because they know they’ll keep getting a big selection, and they get their choice every time.

    The chubby girl with acne is pickier, paradoxically, because she’s thinking “How will it look if I take this one home? Am I settling? I don’t like the buttons on his shirt, they look like Target, not Kohl’s. He’d look better if he got his teeth whitened. Should I even bother?”

  17. I usually do not have a huge difficulty when publishing. But my last go around was a nightmare. First submission they wanted revision, second submission they wanted revision, then the editor said that although I had done what they had asked the “impact” was not high enough in the end so it was rejected. Really? If the journal is not enthusiastic about the work that should be stated up front. Wasting your time with reviews that don’t really get it is bull shit. This is a problem with the editor. Went to a different journal, not much difference in impact score–accepted with minor revision. Took a year of my time.

  18. The pickiest review I ever got (80+ comments and snarky remarks) was from the crappiest journal I ever tried. I also think the reviewer was the editor. We then sent it to a significantly better journal and it got right in. I think some of these lowest of the low journals do have some sort of inferiority complex thing going on.

  19. I agree about that strange phenomenon that the lower the IF, the pickier the review! I have had this a number of times now. I was tearing my hair out over a recent reviewer who twice reviewed my paper with 60+ individual comments along the lines of … ” The word ‘there’ in pg 6 line 81 should actually be ‘therein’” .

  20. @OmicsScience

    Yes but if you had Monica Belucci in your bed (i.e. you have a paper published in Nature/Science/Cell) sometime in your past and she knows it…chances are you don’t have to try that hard!

  21. Pingback: Papers – quality or quantity? | Siobhan Watkins

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