The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Now I’m that idiot….

August 29, 2008

I recently received a rejection on a piece from a major journal in my field. The piece had been with the journal for about seven months, which is very long in international relations.

The rejection was fair, but, like all authors, I had some issues with some of the substance of one of the critiques–although other aspects of it were spot on.

So, having received the decision, I write a quick email to my co-author in which I say something mildly positive about the editors and something pretty negative about one of the reviews. I conclude, however, that I won’t send another piece to the journal because I can’t afford to “waste” that amount of time again.

Except I don’t hit “forward.” I hit “reply.”

I realize this about ten seconds later. But, really, what can you do? I decide to send an email that, I hope, reflects a certain amount of honesty:


Uh. Welcome to the age of email. I hit send rather than forward. This is pretty embarrassing.

I guess there’s no way I can really, um, uh, you know. Please understand that the context of the 7 months is that I’m up for tenure.

I should make clear that I appreciate your letter and don’t have a problem with the decision…. at all….

But, in retrospect, I’m not sure why I thought that would go over well. The same factors that led me to screw up the first email–no sleep last night and my dog’s health problems–continue to cloud my judgment.

I wonder, though, if I should call to apologize. Or will this make things worse? I’m actually not at all likely to submit again to the journal in the near future–because my tenure clock is up in less than a year, I’ll spend the next year doing stuff outside of academia, and because it isn’t in my normal intellectual orbit–but I just feel terrible about the whole thing.


… After writing this, I decided to send another email. This one, I hope, cleanly and clearly apologies, clarifies, and otherwise at least lets my co-author off the hook.

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Daniel H. Nexon is a Professor at Georgetown University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service. His academic work focuses on international-relations theory, power politics, empires and hegemony, and international order. He has also written on the relationship between popular culture and world politics.