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Anyone got any advice for a stressed academic whose papers keep getting rejected??

(11 Posts)
bluesecondred Mon 11-Nov-13 17:57:49

Arrrrgh. My papers keep getting rejected. I am a relatively junior academic, and have got two decent papers in about three years postdoc experience. But since then, I just can't seem to get published. I know that rejection is a big part of being an academic, but I am wondering now whether it is worth carrying on. Two main worries. 1) I am just not sure if I have the intellect for this - perhaps I'm just not good enough? 2) I do not know how I can develop the obsession that seems to be necessary to be a really successful academic, alongside bringing up my two small kids and a husband who works long hours. Is this possible? I don't know. I feel like I'm not physically or emotionally available to them, but it's not like I'm getting anywhere at work either. Feeling so so demoralised. Is it worth carrying on? Do any other academics out there feel like this?

lebasi Mon 11-Nov-13 20:26:06

I know how you feel - juggling the demands of academia and family life can be really tough, and I often feel I am doing neither that well..... Rejection is hard - particularly when reviewers have different and often contradictory views - but I really doubt that you are not good enough, it's often more a case of knowing exactly what the journal reviewers are looking for. Have you got support within your department (eg someone who will read papers before you submit them) or are there courses within your Uni about writing academic articles? If not, is it worth talking to your line-manager / REF director etc about needing more support for your writing? Is there a pattern to the feedback you get from the reviewers, and do you agree with the feedback you get? If so, it might be (relatively) easy to address the problems that are preventing you from getting published; if not, it might be that you are targeting the wrong journals and need to find journals that are more closely aligned with your views. IMHO, it is worth carrying on but I have come to realise that I will not progress as far or as fast as colleagues who haven't got small children (or if they do, have far more family support than I do!) - but that realisation is balanced out by the fact that I enjoy my work and it can be more flexible than roles outside academia.

sbmumtobe Mon 11-Nov-13 20:41:26

I don't know much about this area of work, but can you self-publish online and kindle?

RC1234 Mon 11-Nov-13 21:08:14

You have been published twice in 3 years so you can't be that bad at writing. When I used to get outright rejected it was usually because I had submitted to a higher ranking journal (e.g. Nature) than I was really going to get into. My area of research did not fall into their core areas of interest and because I was pretty much on my own in my field my citation numbers were too low to attract interest as a wild card. Could this be the case - are you submitting to the wrong journals? For the more suitable journals I always got positive feedback and even if I didn't get accepted straight away. The reviewers comments gave me ideas on how improve the paper with more work and try again. You need to read the reviewers comments in full very carefully. If someone is being very unfair I believe you used to be able to ask for a third opinion. You nee more up to date advice than I can offer.

Kemmo Mon 11-Nov-13 21:15:12

Your dept should give you a mentor who can give advice.

If you don't have one the contact a senior academic that you respect i your dept and ask if they could meet with you. Or ask your HoD to recommend someone that can mentor you.

I finally got a mentor after 8 years as academic and it has made and enormous difference. It makes no sense for a dept to leave junior staff to figure this stuff out on their own.

And fwiw the vast majority of my papers still have a more senior academic as coauthor, partly so they can help me with stuff like this.

At the very least you need to get someone more experienced than you to read each paper before you submit.

Kemmo Mon 11-Nov-13 21:16:36

And remember that it is hugely in your dept's interests to help you with this.

Ref etc etc etc

bluesecondred Tue 12-Nov-13 20:55:46

Thanks so much for these comments. I have a terrible habit of comparing myself to colleagues/peers, looking at their rate of publication at a similar point in their career and feeling much worse about myself as a result. I do think that trying to launch an academic career at the same time as reproducing is not great, and it would have been easier if the career had become established and then I had the babies. But perhaps that would have made relatively little difference. Anyway. Onwards and upwards? And thanks again.

bigkidsdidit Wed 13-Nov-13 09:12:53

I feel your pain!

We have an academic chat thread

here

Perhaps re post there?

bluesecondred Wed 13-Nov-13 09:27:04

Oh thanks bigkid - I knew there was something like this but didn't know it was still there or where to look. Will go over now.

Maraki Thu 14-Nov-13 22:06:05

Submit to a journal with a low impact factor to build your citations. Submit towards the end of the calendar year, as high quality papers are published at the beginning of the year to boost IF. Get a senior Professor as a co-author as the name alone will prompt the editors to send your paper for review. Most of the Nature journals only review less than 20% of their submissions and some medical journals review 1-3% of submissions. Consider submitting to an open access journal if your grant/ sponsor will pay.

I work in journals publishing.

I sympathise greatly but please don't be disheartened. As has been said, the big names like Nature have fearsome rejection rates and it's likely that there's nothing especially wrong with your paper but that the bar is just so high. Journals often reject high quality papers because they want to preserve their rejection rates (rightly or wrongly, a sign of quality).

From my "side", there's a few things to consider:

Make sure you're submitting to the best journal for your research which is not the same as the most prestigious journal. If your paper doesn't fit in with the journal's aims & scope it'll be rejected, regardless of the quality.

Really read and take in the reviewer reports. If they're inadequate go back to the editor for clarification. In an ideal world reviewer reports would be detailed and precise but they're not and I have been known to send them back and make them write it again. Don't be afraid to get as much out of the peer review process as you can.

You've been published so you can do it. Feel free to send me a PM if I can help further.

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