My invited review was #rejected
A #scitwitter drama unfolds ::point down::
It all began on a typical academic day, when a parchment sealed in wax arrived by messenger from a top scientific journal* inviting me to write a review on an area of science my lab studies.
*not real names, might have been email. #pilife
I casually do a happy dance and reply immediately accepting the invitation. Was replying within the same minute the invitation arrived too soon, I wonder?
::happy dance gif::
After a brief phone call with the editor, an outline and totally reasonable timeline were set, because this new project is the only thing I'm working on. #phdlife More happy-dancing ensues. Until...
A few weeks into the writing, an excellent review in a sister top* journal covers a portion of the content I intended to cover. Not uncommon, I agree to expand the scope of the work after another brief call with the editor.
How do I expand the scope and describe the current scientific landscape? Two choices:
Blue pill: Think really hard, do a lit review, perhaps read a few of the papers, and write down what comes into my head;
Red pill: Embrace new tools in #datascience and #rstats, perhaps a little #machinelearning, and try to formally quantify the landscape.
I chose the red pill. ::matrix gif:: and write and code and develop what I think is a new type of review...one based on data, not just my favorite ideas. A few colleagues provide customary feedback (clarify here, typo there), and submit to the editor.
A few weeks goes by...I get a call from the editor.
Editor: What exactly is this?
Me: It's the review you invited me to write. (Duh)
Editor: Uh, why does it have code?
Me: Stepping up on to my soap box, channeling my inner Roman orator, I describe how this is the "review of the future" that integrates new tools data and ideas.
Editor: Why does it have supplementary data
Me: In case reviewers are not yet savvy enough to do a code review, I generated Excel spreadsheets so they could see the underlying data that I used to generate the figures.
Editor: ...I'm going to have to talk with my team about this.
Another few weeks goes by, and it's sent out for review. I'm relieved. But seriously: what took so long? This. is. an. invited. review.
A long, cold winter passed, and at the turn of spring, I hear back from the messenger: I'm sorry, we can not offer to publish your review. ?!?!?!?! WTF?
9 pages of reviewer comments. For a review. But this is not a @thirdreviewer drama. In fact, the reviewers were incredibly helpful.
Reviewer 1: it seems like you changed the focus of the review half way through writing (how did they know!?). Make it more clear when you're talking about A vs. B.
Me: This was great feedback.
Reviewer 2: the analyses you did were intriguing, but under developed. Perhaps you should do some more work to formally test the predictions your analyses suggest.
Me (deadpan): this is a review.
Reviewer 3: this is great.
Me: I know, right.
Editor: I'm sorry I could not have been more positive in this instance.
Another brief call with the editor got an invitation to respond to the reviewer comments and re-submit, and see what the reviewers think. Ball is still in play!
I write a heartfelt letter to the reviewers, thanking them for the obvious effort they put into reviewing my review (9 pages after all), cut out a bunch of the speculative stuff, tightened up the language around the analysis, and back off my desk.
A few more weeks go by. Winter again rears its ugly head. Finally, spring again...
Editor: "We have decided NOT to re-send this to the reviewers". Paraphrasing, This is neither a review, nor an opinion piece, it seems like scientific manuscript.
Me: Five steps of grief:
1. You've got to be kidding me!
2. You're an idiot.
3. Perhaps you need an additional reviewer?
4. But, but what about my heartfelt letter?
5. We'll find a home for it.
Perhaps just get it out on @biorxivpreprint, I thought to myself. #biorxiv and #preprints are so hot right now. Perfect temporary home.
Me: Submitting to @bioarxiv is super easy.
Bioarxiv: I'm sorry, we do not publish reviews.
Just like #avengers, or any good drama, there is no ending yet. Chime in #scitwitter, what would you do?
Re-appeal to top* journal
Re-submit as-is elsewhere
Revise, omit #data
Revise, do more analyses