Desk Rejection Comments Revisited


A few years ago, Antti Kauppinen (Helsinki) suggested journals take up the practice of using a “desk rejection scorecard.”

Have any journals adopted a practice, or something similar?

The question is prompted by a graduate student in philosophy who writes:

An optional desk-reject scorecard could be particularly useful for graduate students who are often told they need a publication in a top-tier journal to get a good job. This could also have positive downstream effects on the quality of submissions graduate students send out who have no experience with professional publishing. Has this scorecard idea been implemented by some journals?

If so, let us know, and let us know how it has been going (comments from editors and authors welcome). Your experiences may allay some people’s concerns about the idea, or perhaps draw attention to unforeseen problems. Thank you.

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Joona Räsänen
3 months ago

Perhaps the only reason for desk rejection I can think of is that the paper is not interesting enough (based on the opinion of the editor reading it). And this means roughly that the paper is not in the subdiscipline that the editor has specialized herself.

In the earlier post, Kauppinen suggest a few possible reasons for desk rejection but come on, given the high specialization in philosophy nowadays, without external review, the editor of a general philosophy journal cannot possibly say that the paper is not original enough. And since people submitting to top journals are professional philosophers, it is very unlikely that the papers are poorly written either (at least they are not significantly worse written than the papers actually published in these journals).

I have managed to publish in general philosophy journals only when I have specifically googled the editors and found a journal whose editor has published or shown any interests in the same narrow subdiscipline where my paper belongs. And voilà -> external review -> acceptance.

Here is some advice for the grad student raising this idea of a desk rejection scorecard again. There are general philosophy journals that send almost every paper to external review (Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Analysis and Synthese all desk reject less than 10 % of the submissions). Then there are journals that desk reject most papers they receive (Phil Imprint and Ergo).

Submit your work to the first journals to get comments and, in case of a rejection, a justification. No one should submit papers to a journal that simply desk-reject most papers (although many people have said nice words about Ergo).Report

Daniel Muñoz
Reply to  Joona Räsänen
3 months ago

I disagree with this advice. If you’re a grad student, comments on a desk rejection aren’t that important. There are other, better ways to get comments on your work.

The things you should really think about are prestige, fit, and turnaround time.

(Assuming your goal is to build a strong research profile in time for the market.)Report

Joona Räsänen
Reply to  Daniel Muñoz
3 months ago

I agree that comments on a desk rejection aren’t very important. My point was that if you want comments, submit your papers to journals that do not desk reject but which use reviewers. It is more likely that you will get (useful) comments from a reviewer than from an editor.Report

Last edited 3 months ago by Joona Räsänen
Michael Kates
Michael Kates
Reply to  Joona Räsänen
3 months ago

I would have thought that all journals desk reject some papers (albeit to varying degrees).Report

Joona Räsänen
Reply to  Michael Kates
3 months ago

Well sure, some, like Australasian Journal of Philosophy desk reject 5 %. Others, like Phil Imprint desk reject 75 %. (numbers are from the editors).Report

Daniel Muñoz
Reply to  Joona Räsänen
3 months ago

Fair: comments from a referee can be good.

But you said that *no one* should submit to a journal that mostly desk rejects (without comments). That doesn’t seem right to me. Better to get rejected in two weeks without comments than to get rejected in eight months with comments.Report

Christopher Hitchcock
Reply to  Joona Räsänen
3 months ago

In defense of Ergo (with which I have no affiliation), they have 80+ subject area editors who review papers before deciding whether to send them out. In my own area, philosophy of science, there are about 10. If you send them a paper in philosophy of science, it will be read by someone in the relevant subfield. So a desk rejection does not mean that was not read by a relevant specialist.Report

Diane O'Leary
3 months ago

I’ve published quite a bit since grad school and I’ve just encountered a desk rejection without comment for the first time. The obvious concern – there’s nothing to keep editors from rejecting people they don’t happen to like (since it’s not an anonymous process), or ideas they don’t happen to like, or ideas that challenge their own published positions. This is an annoying problem for individual philosophers, but a substantial problem for the health of the field. Shouldn’t there be some effort to protect the integrity of the process?Report

postdoc
postdoc
Reply to  Diane O'Leary
3 months ago

At least in my subfield, some (if not most) journals are triple-blind — i.e., the editor does not know the identity of the author either.
This may not help with the “ideas they don’t happen to like” part, but let’s hope that does not often lead to desk rejection.Report

Diane O'Leary
Reply to  postdoc
3 months ago

I think for the bigger subfields the process is much more careful. In the smaller fields there’s often no blinding with editors. Seems easy enough for journals to create a triple-blind process of some kind, or at least to use some kind of minimal comment system with desk rejections (like a checklist), so that reasons of some kind are required. Not sure why a journal would choose not to do this kind of thing.Report