When and how to Appeal against
a Peer Review Rejection – and when not to
In the great majority of instances, peer reviewers and editors make appropriate decisions that affect the outcome of submitted papers. Their comments to authors clearly outline where and why a paper needs revision or why it is being rejected. Such comments usually provide highly instructive guidance to authors. Most rejections, although unwelcome, are warranted.
On occasion, however, an author will receive a rejection that should be appealed against. Although appeals typically fail, editors tend to be reasonable and view appeals as an important element of maintaining the research integrity of their journals. Upon receiving a well-argued and polite appeal, most journals will consider giving the rejected article in question a fair re-review.
When an appeal against rejection is probably worthwhile
The peer review process is an amalgam of both scientific and human elements. A poorly conceived, executed or reported study—or one with unconvincing data—will be rightly rejected. But sometimes, a reviewer may have simply experienced a bad day, leading them to misread a submission. When this happens, an appeal against rejection is appropriate and important to help maintain research integrity in the peer review process.
From experience, an appeal against rejection is probably worthwhile in the following cases:
- A reviewer has made a mistake in evaluating key elements of the data presented.
- The author has obtained new data after the initial submission, and the new data transform the submission radically.
- A reviewer bias is evident in the comments related to the rejection.
How to appeal against a peer review rejection
In case you and your co-authors decide to appeal against a rejection, how should you go about it? The following tips will go a long way to help get your paper re-considered.
- Determine the appeal protocol. Many journals provide an appeal process on their website. If no process is given, call the editorial office.
- Always be respectful towards the editorial office, editor, reviewers and process. Courtesy, humility and calm go a long way in winning a re-review.
- Construct your argument clearly around why you believe the appeal is justified. Precision and economy of words are crucial to making an appeal.
- Indicate why you believe a reviewer was off-base or biased in their assessment.
- Politely explain how the reviewer has misunderstood your paper.
- Point out the misunderstanding and provide appropriate clarification.
- Indicate that you have gathered new information and explain how it may reverse the original rejection.
- Suggest potential reviewers who have expertise in the topic. Editors often appreciate suggestions for reviewers, especially on unfamiliar or esoteric topics. Suggesting reviewers (and including their contact and related information) may win you a second chance at review. At the least, your suggestions show your commitment to the integrity of the review process.
When to give up a rejection appeal
There is a time and season for everything. Knowing when to give up an appeal is just as important as knowing when to pursue one. Chasing after an appeal would probably be counterproductive in the following circumstances.
- Your co-authors and the author team agree to give up.
- After a dispassionate assessment, you realise that the editorial office had been correct in rejecting your paper.
- You believe you have exhausted all avenues of appeal and it is clear that the journal will not change its mind.
Our advice: Difficult as it may be to quit, it’s never a good idea to push an appeal so aggressively that you alienate a journal’s editor or editorial office. Instead, consider making necessary edits and submitting the manuscript to another journal.
Additional note: You may also consider having your paper professionally reviewed and edited for its scientific merit. If so, you may wish to learn more about our Scientific Editing Service here.
Appeals are an important component of the peer review process and serve as a mechanism to help ensure the research integrity of academic scientific inquiry.
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