“Why was my paper rejected?” may be one of the most commonly spoken refrains in the halls of academia, and certainly a question impossible to tie to a single answer. Recently, Serap Aksoy, co-editor-in-chief of PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, invited fellow EICs from some of Turkey’s major academic journals to participate in a first-of-its-kind editorial panel at Ankara University to discuss many of the editorial challenges involved in administering the peer review process, as well as a wide range of other topics.
The consensus among editors was that rejected submissions mainly fall into three major categories: papers that lack significance in their respective fields; papers in which authors presented their data confusingly or without sufficient detail; and papers that contained experiments with flawed methodology. The editors stressed that drafting a research article as soon as possible and circulating it amongst colleagues for critical feedback is a best practice and significantly raises the chance for success. Additionally, planning papers in tandem with developing experiments was noted as a helpful method for effectively communicating detailed methodologies.
While discussing the components of a successful article, the topic of supporting information touched off a conversation in which editors expressed a number of broad concerns about its role in an article and the difficulty of dealing with ever-increasing volumes of it. The panelists were concerned that complex datasets, as they grow more numerous thanks to any number of technological and analytical breakthroughs, may not be receiving proper review due to the specialization that may be required to dissect their data density. Adding to that, issues pertaining to the distributed computing resources – sometimes internationally distributed – that are often necessary to generate these datasets brought up the question of whether or not the umbrella of authorship was to be extended to IT and software development staff. In the end, while no panacea was agreed upon for dealing with complex supporting information, it is one that is likely to often come up in editorial discussions.
Something that all the panelists did find common ground on, though, is the idea that journals are much more than simply places where authors go to publish papers – journals exist to foster community and advance the aims and ambitions of that community in their respective fields. To those ends, PLOS NTD takes capacity building seriously and would be eager to seek out and establish exploratory international partnerships with other journals that we can collaborate and share editorial resources with.