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Understanding and responding to 
a Journal Transfer decision

Matching your research to the right journal constitutes an important element of the scientific publishing process. In addition to considering a journal’s specialty, reputation, circulation and impact factor (IF), you should consider whether it is part of a larger portfolio of publications that offer journal transfer. This is sometimes also called ‘transfer cascade’.

Journal transfer / Transfer cascade explained

If your submission is not accepted by your first-choice journal, that journal’s editor can refer the paper to another publication which they think would be more suitable. Other publications can include:

  • A ‘satellite’ journal, related closely to the first one, for example, from the parent Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery to the satellite journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery—Global Open. (You will notice that such journals often share similar titles.)
  • A journal within a publisher’s portfolio of related journals, for example, the Nature Portfolio
  • Rarely, to a competitor’s journal in the same field, for example, from Neurosurgery to The Journal of Neurosurgery

Reasons for a journal transfer

The editor of the first-choice journal makes the decision, which is often heavily influenced by reviewers.

  • Reviewers suggest a transfer believing an article has merit for publication, but is either not significant or not strong enough for that particular journal.
  • Similarly, reviewers suggest a transfer when they believe the article would be better positioned (due to focus, scope or topic) in a related journal.
  • On occasion, a transfer cascade is suggested in order to expedite timely publication of a manuscript.

Benefits of a journal transfer

Journal transfers or cascades benefit authors and journals alike in many ways.

  • Transfers offer a ‘custom fit’ for articles, positioning them in front of an ideal audience.
  • Based on the above, they often speed up publication time.
  • Many transfer journals are indexed and have high IFs. And given the alternative of rejection, transfer cascade is much more desirable.

Dealing with a journal transfer

When you receive an invitation to transfer a submission, consider these practical steps:

  • Make sure you understand exactly what the transfer means.
    • Are editors promising automatic acceptance into the second journal with the transfer?
    • Are they suggesting that a transfer would provide a better chance of acceptance, but are making no promises?
    • Will reviewer comments from the first journal transfer to the second?
    • Is the second journal indexed?
    • How long would publication take in the second journal?
    • If the transfer is to an open access journal, what are the article processing charges?
  • Consult with the editorial offices of the journals involved. They often are in close communication with each other and will help you understand the reasons for a requested transfer, as well as how to navigate the transfer.
  • Do you and your co-authors accept the transfer? Authors of suggested transfer papers always have the ‘right of first refusal’. You do not have to agree to a transfer, and can submit your paper elsewhere if desired. 
  • If the reviewer panel suggested revisions prior to resubmission to another journal, definitely make those edits before initiating the transfer.

Process of journal transfer

If you decide to accept the transfer decision and are clear about the next steps, resubmission to the satellite journal is easy.

  • Manuscript files (along with review comments, if applicable) are digitally transferred from one editorial office to another, which saves you substantial time and paperwork.
  • Prior to transfer, you can make revisions to these manuscripts as well as edit their cover letter.

Avoiding journal transfer

Having understood what a journal transfer involves, it’s always ideal to be accepted by your first-choice journal. To optimise your chances and avoid article transfer, here are a few suggested actions you can take:

  • Familiarise yourself with the scope of the first-choice publication.
  • Review similar articles in the journal and see how yours aligns with them.
  • Focus your manuscript extremely narrowly to match as closely as possible with the subject matter and interests of your target journal.


Journal transfer or transfer cascade offers opportunities to authors (and journals). For authors, it reduces stress in finding a suitable second journal, gives you control, provides rapid and easy resubmission, and positions your research in front of a highly targeted audience. So, if your article has been given a journal transfer decision, don’t worry. Follow the suggestions and actions in this article. In due course of time, your article should be on its way to publication and in front of your target readers!


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