Yesterday I got an email with the subject line, “Decision on [sic] Manuscript ID….”. I hate these emails. I always get really nervous and brush over the major points looking for the “accepted” or “rejected” lines. Well, unfortunately this time I was the word “rejected”. My first thought? “Yep, I’m never going back”.
I’ve faced a fair amount of rejection in my time. For most academics, it comes with the territory. Some of my first manuscripts were rough, and I mean rough. Over the years I’ve tuned my writing so that while rejection still happens, it isn’t nearly as common. Having said that, it still sucks. And since this was the first rejection I received since earning my PhD, it hit especially hard. Not just because of the actual rejection, but the reminder of how variable the review system in peer-review is.
The general consensus on this specific MS was that it just didn’t fit the journal. I get that more than I should. I’m still struggling with finding good fits for manuscripts (while also trying not to pigeonhole myself into the disease/herp/tox world). Prior to this MS I had 3 accepted with minor revisions so I can’t be completely clueless…but I digress. There were two reviews for my MS and they couldn’t have been more different.
The first review was a massacre. To read it you would thing that I submitted a note on animal husbandry to Nature. Don’t get me wrong, many of the comments made by the reviewer were justified; however, I don’t find it necessary to be just downright rude when trying to constructively criticize one’s work. I have read and reviewed some pretty terrible manuscripts, but I always keep things professional. Not so with this review. I honestly haven’t read through the entire thing yet because I just got disgusted with the apparent joy that this reviewer took in eviscerating what was described by the editor and reviewer #2 as a good study that’s worthy of publication in a more appropriate journal.
Speaking of reviwer #2…he or she had nothing but positive things to say about the MS. Sure, there were some minor details and constructive criticism, but I welcomed those comments. I’m not saying that they drooled over my work, they were just very professional in their critiques. And that’s all (and I believe most scientists) ask for.
Ever time I get a rejection, it’s a definite hit. I take a couple deep breathes, briefly read the reviews, yell at my computer, and immediately start in on editing the MS. Then I actually think about it, put the MS, away, gather my thoughts, and email my coauthors to keep them in the loop. This time was no different and I was fortunate enough to get a kickback from a collaborator/advisor that was incredibly supported and helped me gather my thoughts. I’ll start on edits tomorrow; today I’ll just complain.