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When to Abandon a Paper.

21 October 2013

A paper I’ve been resubmitting to various journals has now been revised and rejected so many times that I no longer even really remember what it’s about. Ok that’s not true. But it’s a very small result, not particularly novel, and apparently not well written. I think it’s safe to say that the paper, in anything like its current form, is garbage. It’s been rejected from good journals, and mediocre journals, and brand new journals. I’m unwilling to send it to a straight-up bad journal.

I had hoped to get this put out there as a starting piece to a bigger set of papers. But the fact is, it’s not publishable in anything like a good traditional journal. I have no doubt that I could get it into PLOS One (the methods are sound). But I’d have to put up my own money for the OA fees, because it was done as part of a consulting gig and the institution I did it for isn’t going to pay (but certainly doesn’t qualify for a need-based exemption). But the truth is, I’m not sure I really care.

This isn’t a novel result that people need to see in order to do good work. It’s just a thing we did. Not every thing I do needs to be published. That’s just ego, right? Now, I have a co-author who would definitely benefit from it, and so if he is interested in putting it out there again, I certainly won’t object. But I don’t think that this is worth the couple of hours it’ll take for me to reformat and resubmit. It’s just not very good.

Not everything I do has to be great. I did a job. The people paying me were very happy with the job. Maybe that’s good enough. Maybe I don’t need to choke the pages of another journal with my junk. Make room for someone who did something good, instead of resubmitting again and hoping I get lazy or credulous reviewers. When do you decide that something you did just isn’t interesting? For me, it’s now. I wrote a boring, unimportant paper. If you reviewed it, I’m sorry.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Dee permalink
    21 October 2013 20:02

    Can you post it on your blog if you get permission from the co-author. Just because journals don’t want to publish it doesn’t mean someone wouldn’t benefit from reading it.

  2. bordersofbio2 permalink
    22 October 2013 09:21

    Or on Figshare – again, if the coauthor agrees. Benefit of Figshare is that you get a DOI to cite in future work…

  3. Syd permalink
    30 October 2013 07:17

    I go by the three times you’re out rule–sometimes something just isn’t novel enough or perhaps fatally flawed in experimental design that it just needs to be filed away. We used to joke that a paper that couldn’t get published in regular quality journals would go to the Journal of Irreproducible Results. And there is such a journal!

  4. Jeff permalink
    11 November 2013 20:56

    I submit to lower and lower end until accepted. If it is sound and peer reviews say it is valid and just not novel then a lower end journal is appropriate. Replication is going away from science because journals all want to be the one that publishes the most novel results. We need a journal dedicated to replication.
    good luck

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