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Appealing An Editorial Decision

Appealing an editorial decision

Some time ago, I successfully appealed to an editorial decision in name of my coauthors. While I don’t want to name and shame other academics here, it is necessary for this story that the article was submitted to a Frontiers journal – this information is relevant because of Frontier’s use of a review forum.

Here’s what happened:

  1. We submitted the article
  2. We received two reviewer reports, both requesting major revisions.
  3. We addressed the reviewers’ comments carefully, including carrying out additional analyses.
  4. We resubmitted.
  5. The reviewers “endorsed” the manuscript.
  6. The editor sent additional comments, including a request to ask for for the expert opinion of colleagues on two matters.
  7. We addressed all the comments of the editor carefully and contacted two colleagues for their thoughts on some elements with respect to the methods.
  8. We resubmitted.
  9. The paper was sent to a third reviewer, who required minor revisions, mostly regarding language.
  10. We addressed these comments and resubmitted.
  11. The third reviewer endorsed the manuscript.
  12. The editor sent a long list of comments, informing us that at the moment the article is not up to standards and requesting a complete reanalysis of the results and rewrite of the paper, as well as changes in authorship. Here’s where the particularities of the Frontiers system become important: the editor sent these in the forum, so there was no decision to either accept or reject the article, leaving it in limbo.
  13. I, on behalf of all authors, appealed this request with the editorial office.
  14. The editorial office sent the matter to the editor in chief.
  15. The editor in chief decided to accept the article, without requesting any further changes.

In my decade of academic publishing, I had never appealed to an editorial decision. But, in this case, I felt that the requests of the editor were unreasonable and that with three endorsements, there were strong grounds to appeal the situation. Moreover, the whole procedure had already been taking a lot of time – so I felt it was time to know what we were up to: a rejection and resubmission to another journal, or an acceptance.

Moral of this story: if you think there are really good reasons to appeal an editorial decision, you can try it. You should of course think very well before going this route, and you would need a strong case (just disagreeing with reviewers’ comments may not be enough grounds for an appeal), but it can be done.

Have you ever appealed an editorial decision? How did it go?

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