Resubmitting an Article to another Journal

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 A few days ago, Rod Ellis sent me an article to be reviewed for his journal Language Teaching Research. Though the names of the authors had been taken off, I knew immediately from the title that the article had been submitted to TQ earlier. The referees had, however, recommended that the article be rejected. Though it is perfectly fine to resubmit the article elsewhere, I was concerned that I won't be impartial in my evaluation. Therefore, I wrote back to Rod to say that I had evaluated this manuscript before. I did tell him that the article was more suitable for the section in his journal "Regional Studies" for which it had been submitted.


However, Rod wrote back and asked: "If the author has decided not to resubmit to you but has received reviews I would really like some evidence that he/she has attempted revisions and not just sent the original article to another journal (LTR).  Would you be able to check if some revisions have been made?"


I see that more and more editors consider this a fair request and not a violation of the editorial protocol. I did check and found that the manuscript hadn't gone through any changes. I informed Rod about this. I don't know how Rod is proceeding on this matter. If it was me, I would inform the authors about this discovery and yet offer them the possibility of a review if they can do the following: send the review comments of the previous journal, show how they took them on board to revise the article, and send a revised version.


Such a case did happen sometime earlier in TQ. When I asked Gabi Kasper to review an article on pragmatics, she said she had considered it for Applied Linguistics, which she was editing at that time. However, taking a look at the article, she found that it had indeed been revised based on the comments of her referees. We considered the article for publication, sent it out for a fresh review, and did publish it after substantial revision. And, yes, Gabi was one of the reviewers.


The moral of the story? Authors should realize that the publishing world is a small world after all. There's a good chance that their resubmitted article will go to the same reviewers in the new round of review. Though it is perfectly appropriate to have the article considered for publication elsewhere once the review of the original journal is complete, you must make sure that you do all the revisions suggested by the previous reviewers. In some of my own submissions, I have even started mentioning in my cover letter the name of the journal to which I had submitted my article before, the suggestions they had made for improvement, how I had changed the manuscript in response to those suggestions, and the reason I was considering a different journal for publication now. That information might in fact help the editors look for a different set of reviewers, if they wanted.

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Brad said:

I wish more editors kept blogs like this one. Doubtless they are too busy, I don't know how you do it, Suresh. Anyway, I'm finally plucking up the courage to comment on one of these.

My comment here is that I would like to see more empathy for the writer. Why would he or she resubmit to a different journal without revising? The assumption seems to be that he or she is lazy or hoping to get lucky the second time around. And since he or she didn't revise, fair enough. That shows a lack of effort. I have never done that and would never do that.

But I can easily imagine deciding to resubmit to a different journal for other reasons--such as a lack of satisfaction with the quality or objectivity of the reviews, being instructed to revise in directions I had already decided not to go, etc. In such cases, I could never take your advice, "you must make sure that you do all the revisions suggested by the previous reviewers."

This posting seems to assume the impeccability of the original reviews? It's somewhat disheartening to think the circle of reviewers is so closed or clannish or monoperspectival as all that. (Is that a word?) If this were indeed the case, wouldn't it reinforce the tendency you have lamented in this very blog for writers to attempt getting published via various political and discourse moves and machinations, etc.?

I recall a recent experience involving an article I'd done that centered around a professional diary. My first choice journal (I still stand by my choice) sent it to a reviewer who had evidently never heard of this research method, and whose revision guidelines mainly consisted of telling me to scrap this qualitative approach. The other reviewer had entirely different comments; the co-editors offered no guidance. I am sure it was not a perfect article, but I thought it was good enough to submit, so I faced a choice. Jump through the reviewer's hoops for the sake of a publication? Or revise as I could and try somewhere else? I chose the second option, got much better reviews the second time, was consequently able to do a much better revision, and I'm pleased to say the piece is now forthcoming. But what if it had gone to the same reviewers as the first time? It would have died an untimely death due to fundamentally unreconcilable views on how-what-why the article should be doing...though the reviewers and editors would no doubt= see this as an issue of academic quality rather than as a philosophical conflict.

All I am saying is, the original reviewer(s) might be just as fallible as the writer himself or herself, or an editor, for that matter, unthinkable as that may be. :-) And from that starting point, it's difficult to see following your advice in every case. I remain open, however, to any further remarks you might have on this matter.

-- Brad

Good point, Brad. Something for editors to think about.

I am not saying that authors shouln't submit elsewhere, but that it may be a matter of full disclosure to say that it was sent elsewhere first. Of course, authors should be free to say that they don't agree with the suggestions of the previous set of reviewers. That would actually save them from questions from the present journal about what they did with the previous reviews.

I see your point about not having to revise if you don't agree with the previous reviwers' comments. However, I tend to believe any review is good and useful. I actually have problems getting people to read my work and give me feedback. So, if the previous journal gives me reviewer comments, I still like to see how I can strengthen the mss before I send it out again.

Brad said:

I agree about trying to get something out of every review to strengthen a piece, though in a couple of instances I have been hard-pressed to do so...

I am curious about your phrase "full disclosure." What do you think it involves? And what kind of moral force are you putting behind your recommendation? Based on what principles or values? And what would be the disclosure responsibilities on the journal's or editor's side? And in your experience, how many journals or editors fulfill those? Specifically, how much of the truth do you think Rod Ellis is going to tell that writer? How much should he tell? Why or why not? And how do the obvious power disparities between journal/editor/reviewers and writers figure into this?

-- Brad

You are right. There is no full disclosure across the board. As for me as an author, I would like to tell everything about the background of the paper as it will avoid any embarrassment later. If the editor happens to send it to the same referees, it won't come as a surprise to them or to me, etc.
I guess I have to choose a different word for that kind of safe disclosure.

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This page contains a single entry by SURESH CANAGARAJAH published on October 16, 2008 11:07 PM.

Rejected Authors Fight Back! was the previous entry in this blog.

Adopting an electronic submission and review process is the next entry in this blog.

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