A little more on rejection

Sorry for the lack of inspiration around JHND blog posts recently. Things are very busy with things that lie outside my journal life, and to be honest things have been trundling along very quietly and efficiently in JHND-land. We have a steady stream of submissions (probably 2 new manuscripts per day at the moment) and we continue to process them promptly. At the last count we were reaching our first decision on papers within 4 weeks.

Alongside the faster turnaround we are looking for manuscripts of greater quality as the journal has bold aims to increase journal impact factor and generally increase the esteem and broader international reputation of JHND. This means that we are rejecting a lot more papers than we used to. At the moment we are accepting around a third of all submissions and I expect that over the coming month that will fall to a quarter and eventually just one in ten. Only the very best will get past our eagle-eyed editorial team.

With the greater push on quality and the increase in rejection, there is an inevitable increase in the number of people writing to me to question decisions. This is fair enough and I have no problem with answering such queries. There is a bit of a theme to those answers and so it may be useful to list some key points.

1. Decisions about rejection or acceptance are only guided by reviewer comments. Sometimes we will go against reviewers recommendations if we disagree with them. Sometimes two reviewers will give very polarised views and the editor has the job of assessing the paper to reach a balanced view.

2. Sometimes the decision seems harsh because a reviewer may have made just a few negative comments that seem unjustified, whilst everything else could be readily addressed. However, the editor will have looked at the full range of reviewer comments and the decision will be also based upon whether the paper is likely to be of wide interest (and will attract citations from other authors) and how well it fits with the scope of the journal.

3. What you see as an author is not the full story. Reviewers write confidential comments to the author and sometimes these are at odds with what is presented to the authors.

4. Rejection without review is the bitterest of all pills for an author and it happens to the best of us. For our journal there are a number of reasons for this:

a) Animal studies- we don’t publish them
b) Reviews that are not systematic in their methodology, or not written by an expert who has the breadth and depth of knowledge to produce an authoritative position paper
c) The paper is too limited in interest. E.g. it may be of great interest to gastroenterologists in Nepal, but not of international significance and relevance
d) The work has significant and obvious flaws that do not require input from an expert reviewer
e) The paper lies outside the published scope of the journal. Check before you submit!
f) There has been insufficient recognition of key protocols such as CONSORT or PRISMA

The key thing is to remember that it is not a personal decision. When we reject a manuscript, although it feels like it, we are not making a personal slur against you. Our sole aim is to raise JHND up to internationally high standing and do the best we can to showcase excellent, citable research that has reach rigour and significance for the field of human nutrition and dietetics.

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