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Martin Paul Eve

Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London

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It is often assumed that researchers submit their work to the highest prestige titles and, when rejected, move down the ‘hierarchy’ to titles with less stringent review criteria (see, for instance, Poynder, Richard, ‘PLoS ONE, Open Access, and the Future of Scholarly Publishing’, 2011, https://richardpoynder.co.uk/PLoS_ONE.pdf, p. 29).

The irony is that at each stage of this process the paper may be revised and rewritten in the light of feedback. It is not the same paper that is submitted down the cascade. If the peer-review feedback at the ‘top’ journals really is more rigorous/stronger – albeit also more exclusionary as a pure filter – then papers published in the mid-tier of titles, if they fully consider and implement constructive criticism, could turn out to be better submissions than the ones originally passed to the elite journals.

This depends, of course, on review feedback actually being constructive, of which there is no guarantee. It could also depend on the reasons for rejection, which are not uniform/homogeneous – originality/significance/a higher threshold for unspecified notions of quality could also play a role.