A reader writes with a query about some manuscripts that were rejected without review; in one case the summary rejection was sort of understandable, but in the other, not at all. Summary rejection was a topic of a post last summer, but it is a perennial topic. In fact, I recently recommended rejection of a manuscript without review.
Why did I do it?
I don't do this often, but in this case the manuscript failed to cite or even mention (e.g., in a cover letter) a paper with a similar title published by the same authors in another journal last year, it was a matter of minutes to compare the two and see they were essentially the same, and, as if that weren't enough, it was a poorly written paper with conclusions unsupported by the inadequate dataset. I think that decision was quite reasonable.
Other situations involving rejection-without-review, like one described by my correspondent, are more difficult to understand, especially if the editor does not explain the basis for his/her decision to reject without review. Editors should explain the reason(s), even if it is as simple as "We can only publish 0.2% of the manuscripts we receive, we glanced at yours and weren't immediately gripped, end of story."
If you think a particular rejection-without-review is completely unwarranted given the interest-level of the paper and the fit with the journal, then it's worth trying to argue with the editor in a clear and calm way. Marshall your arguments for why your manuscript should at least be reviewed, and give it your best shot.
6 months ago