Monday, October 29, 2007


re·cal·ci·trant (rĭ-kāl'sĭ-trənt): adj. Marked by stubborn resistance to and defiance of authority or guidance.

So, here's the deal. The article I sent off came back... with yet another verdict of revise-and-resubmit. Reader #1 wanted only two minor changes, the work of three minutes. Reader #2, however, was not so convinced, and gave me four and a half pages of suggestions for revisions.

Many of these suggestions are good, and there's one that pointed out a boneheaded factual error I made. But others seem to object to a lot of the underlying premises of the article. I fretted. I fumed. I internally stomped my feet and slammed doors. Recalcitrant, you see, is just "bratty" in four syllables.

On the other hand, I could tell from the comments that this was a knowledgeable person, and if a knowledgeable person points out where you're going wrong, you should take the opportunity to improve.

On the other hand (yes, that's three hands now), I'm up for tenure review in a year. This has got me very anxious. I need to publish this piece.

I was unsure what to do: Take weeks out of the book project that I had finally gotten back to, in order to resubmit to this high-ranking journal? Or ignore the comments and send it off to a less prestigious journal?

So, I did something sensible: I sent it off to a couple of friends, one of whom has been a mentor of mine since my grad school days. Their verdict: the comments require some serious revisions, but they're not as disastrous as you think they are. Take two weeks only, work hard on the revisions, and send it off again, because this journal is worth it.

So, that's it: I finish the work I'm doing (more on that in the next post), which will take me up to Thanksgiving, then work on the revision for two weeks, and try again.

But I'm still kind of stomping my feet, a little.


squadratomagico said...

It sounds frustrating... but if you get into the Journal of Excellent Studies, it will have been worth it, right?

Belle said...

It's just two weeks, and you're writing, and it's very worth it. And I, for one, am glad you're blogging again. I'm getting rather looped into the lives of my blogfriends, and worry when you disappear.

So there.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Thanks, you two! And the next post is dedicated to you.

Squadro: "Journal of Excellent Studies" is great. I'm stealing it.

Rufus said...

I remember seeing an interview with a scholar who said he wasn't really a writer- he was a re-writer. I think my own writing to rewriting ratio is something like 1/20 in terms of time spent.

Dr. Richard Scott Nokes said...

My favorite "revise and resubmit" request objected to, in their words, both my "subject matter and methodology."

I e-mailed the editor to ask her why they would ask for a resubmission if they thought it was so fatally flawed (I thought, "What did they LIKE about it? The font?"), and after several e-mails back and forth I came to the conclusion that the general editor really wanted to publish it, but one of the reviewers objected so strongly that she felt she couldn't without a revise and resubmit.

My response was to say, "Thanks, but no thanks ... someone else asked for the article after I sent it to you." The moral of this story is that the peer review process can be as political as anything else in academic life, and sometimes requires political navigation.

Take the R&R request as a series of suggestions, accepting the suggestions you think are good and fair, and rejecting those you think are wrong. After all, when the paper appears in print, it will be YOUR name on it, not the anonymous reviewer's, so your scholarly reputation is on the line. Take the time out to revise it as see fit. If they still won't publish it, yank the article and send it off to someone with an editorial board more in line with your own scholarly priorities.

One more thing -- the relative prestige of journals is determined by the scholarly community, of which you are a part. If, when all is said and done, you think "Journal of Excellent Studies" has treated you and your work shabbily, you might consider re-naming it in your mind "Journal of Mediocre Studies (formerly JoES)." JoES might no longer deserve its reputation.