Establishing Sensible and Practical Guidelines for Desk Rejections

Science and Engineering Ethics 24 (4):1347-1365 (2018)
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Abstract

Publishing has become, in several respects, more challenging in recent years. Academics are faced with evolving ethics that appear to be more stringent in a bid to reduce scientific fraud, the emergence of science watchdogs that are now scrutinizing the published literature with critical eyes to hold academics, editors and publishers more accountable, and a barrage of checks and balances that are required between when a paper is submitted and eventually accepted, to ensure quality control. Scientists are often under increasing pressure to produce papers in an increasingly stringent publishing environment. In such a climate, timing is everything, as is the efficiency of the process. Academics appreciate that rejections are part of the fabric of attempting to get a paper published, but they expect the reason to be clear, based on careful evaluation of their work, and not on superficial or unsubstantiated excuses. A desk rejection occurs when a paper gets rejected even before it has entered the peer review process. This paper examines the features of some desk rejections and offers some guidelines that would make desk rejections valid, fair and ethical. Academics who publish are under constant pressure to do so quickly, but effectively. They are dependent on the editors’ good judgment and the publisher’s procedures. Unfair, unsubstantiated, or tardy desk rejections disadvantage academics, and editors and publishers must be held accountable for wasting their time, resources, and patience.

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