Sunday, March 09, 2014

Are we there yet? After submtting journal articles, what happens next

Having completed a commitment of the postdoc writing scholarship (3 articles/3 months), what happens next is acceptance, rejection and something in between.
Having submitted 3 articles, one nationally, two internationally plus a conference paper, I looked forward to what others would make of them.

Article one; I thought this was the easiest of my papers. It was a descriptive and hopefully (so i thought), a persuasive account of new practice.
What came back was a thankyou letter.
"The subject matter looks very interesting and ground-breaking.
Thank you too for ensuring that (named organisation) has approved the submission of your article.
We will send your article out to two referees in our double blind review process, and we will be in touch with you
as soon as we have their feedback.

They appeared to like it. I have heard nothing more.
This journal publishes only twice a year. The closing date for submissions for its June publication has only just passed. I chose the journal because the information i present is local and contextually based. Letting others know of whats available locally, how and why it has evolved was written with the intent of local impact on practice. I owed it to my participants to have their knowledge shared locally as a priority.

Article 2; conference paper. This was the most fun one to write. It pushed boundaries on layout and language.
It's a provocative piece.
What came back was an automated acceptance of submission.
Then a few weeks later some more detailed commentary: very positive on form, and some concern on its function.
Under "Changes required for acceptance":
The paper is intriguing and innovative in form but isn’t centrally focused on xxxxx. It really deals with research issues and how to report research ...
Detailed comments
We really like this paper and its bold, playful style. A couple of points for addressing:

1. The focus is methodological, to do with research dissemination, and that is itself a useful contribution to the conference: however, as stated above, it would be good to see more linkage ... connections are currently left unstated.
2. This links to our second point, ... we’d like to see a bit more on the project here as a way of grounding the theoretical/representational work of the paper.
And, as an aside, rather than a requested amendment, the author makes it a bit too easy for the reader not to engage with the txtspk paratext: s/he might include a final sentence or two which is txtspk only, and deny us the comfort of the translation.

For this particular audience, the changes requested were well deserved,: relate it more strongly to the conference.
This was done and it has been accepted.

Article 3; An advance on article 1 for an international audience. Its a better article than article 1; i had mulled it for longer and read a bit more.
What came back was an automated acceptance of submission.
Followed two weeks later by requirement of further anonymity- remove names of ethics boards, remove name of organisation where the study occurred.
Followed by acknowledgement of the resubmission and it being sent for peer review.
10 weeks later the peer review feedback is received, and is very positive:
"The reviews are in general favourable and suggest that, subject to minor revisions, your paper could be suitable for publication. Please consider these suggestions, and I look forward to receiving your revision."
This is followed by commentary from the editor pointing to what seemed contradictory: dramatic use of prose- nonetheless liked by the reviewer and by the editor, but noted as unusual in (this) journal publishing.
The area of emotional support versus counselling, one reviewer and the editor hold the view that helpline work is not counselling but is emotional support. Change the words used.
This is then followed by the detailed feedback of the two reviewers.
"An excellent and timely paper"
develop the relevance section more, persuade reader of what they might do/apply (fair comment, but can i do it in the word count?)
From the other reviewer:
One of the points i thought i had made insufficiently persuasive. (S/he is right).
Clarify term: reference to a PDA, even when also written as a personal digital assistant, needs describing further.
More detail of how to actually do this new practice, how tensions are resolved, a more operational account wanted.

Getting back to this article, so much later, is difficult, my time is dedicated to other things.
I finally got back to it, some 4 weeks after receiving the feedback, checked with the editor that this was ok, for the life of me i could not find where it was written that i have until May.
8 pomodoros later and some peer support, and i have made all the changes requested regarding change of words, describing the PDA, and some deleting in anticipation of making a little more space for readers to ahve more info about what they might actually do.

Article 4.
Received an automatically generated acknowledgement of receipt. Followed by a polite, supportive rejection letter.
We have pre-reviewed your manuscript and decided that it is not a good fit for xxxx. Although the paper makes some nice observations, and we appreciate your efforts, the manuscript as a whole lacks the clear focus and solid grounding in the literature that would be necessary for it to make its points effectively. For this reason we feel that it will not be of significant interest to a broad spectrum of xxxx readers.
I was not too surprized. I felt i was rushing it, I also felt it was more a show and tell rather than being suited to the theoretical stance of this journal. At some point i need to select a better space for this one.

I am feeling positive about the peer review process.
Its been a good thing to have some expert knowledge and academic focus on the content of what i had written of. While having had excellent feedback previously from my PhD supervisor and fellow peers on the PhD journey, I had not yet had feedback specific to the content rather than the process of research.

Here's some other expert advice on peer revew from the Emerald Publishing group
It really is great that others have taken the time to look at what i might do better. This article also provides a format, and example, for responding to comments so the next submission post revisions might be itemised.

And some advice on phrasing rebuttal of comments made in the peer review.

And from Springer publishers a similar request for a covering letter to address the points raised, and for the tone to remain respectful.

If feeling somewhat deflated on having to resubmit or even resubmit elsewhere, take heart, here's some research that suggests more citations occur for resubmitted papers, though seemingly counter intuitive, it provides a reasonable argument that the process of rejection is making better articles than those accepted on a first run.
Nature doi:10.1038/nature.2012.11583
Discussed here

1 comment:

  1. My partner is a writer for the media so I know how tricky it can be...

    See what's is in store go to

    Love And Light