Chatting with people at La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica, the topic from a recent post came up: that journals have cut back on “accept with revisions” decisions.
There was a little disagreement in the comments. Now, on the basis of some conversations, I have to disagree with myself. Talking with three different grad students, this is what I learned:
Some journals are, apparently, still regularly doing “accept-with-revisions.” And they also then are in the habit of rejecting those papers after the revisions come in.
This conversation only happened twice, in the presence of a total of five other people. Yet three of my interlocutors actually received an acceptance from a journal, that was then revoked. In all cases, the cover letters used the word “accept.” Then, in all cases, after the revisions were submitted, the editor wrote back to say that the acceptance was rescinded.
What more can I say about these bizarre incidents? The authors said that they did the revisions as recommended. In at least one of the cases, the editor explicitly wrote that the reason for the reversal-of-decision was because of a flaw in the manuscript that was present when it was submitted, and was not part of the prescribed revisions. (So, I think the proper inference is that that the editor accepted the paper on the basis of the reviews, and then decided to read the paper more carefully after the revisions came in, and then changed their mind.) And this same editor said that a retracted acceptance was unfortunate, but not uncommon. Or something along those lines. What planet is this editor from that retracted acceptances are not abnormal?
Which journals were these? I’m not in the mood to name them the body of this post — especially because it could get back in a negative way on the students — but they all were quite-acceptable specialized journals. And — huh! — a quick search shows that in all three cases, the publisher’s name rhymes with Springer.
I find this particularly bothersome because grad students are new to the publishing game, and when something like this happens, I can see how a student might think that they somehow screwed up the acceptance.
Students who got an accept-then-reject: It’s not you, it’s them. It’s the system that effed up, not you.
Editors: Accept means accept. Don’t say “accept” unless you’re willing to stand behind that decision.
Springer: Tell your editors that accept means accept.
Academic publishing is weird. Rejections may not be rejections, and acceptances may not be acceptances. Hrrm.