What does any faculty member REALLY want for the holidays? It’s not a Lexus, it’s not jewelry, it’s a brand new revise-and-resubmit (R&R) manuscript. It’s really all that is on my list every year. That and, of course, world peace.
How can one get an R&R manuscript? So far, I think R&R decisions are the result of the following four conditions:
(a) Good work without any serious theoretical or empirical flaws
(b) An introduction that doesn’t make the reviewers/editor think the piece is crap from the get-go
(c) All reviewers are pretty positive about the manuscript
(d) At least one reviewer must be in a very happy mood
Publishing is tough. Most of the time, I get rejected. Most of my rejected manuscripts are missing at least two of the characteristics listed in Conditions A through C – most reviewers point out serious problems in the manuscript (a fail on Condition A) and, most of the time, multiple reviewers point out these problems (a fail on Condition C). Sometimes, however, my work actually passes Conditions A through C but the editor rejects the manuscript because of Condition D – at least one reviewer did not “glow” about the manuscript. These are the toughest rejects to handle – if only one of my double-blind colleagues was nicer about the manuscript, I might have gotten a shiny new R&R. Unfortunately, no reviewer was sold enough to gush about the possibility of the manuscript changing the way we think about X. How can one ensure that at least one reviewer is sufficiently happy enough to glow about the manuscript and its contribution?
After years of keeping meticulous records on my rejection and R&R decisions, I think I’ve found the solution: REVIEWERS ARE HAPPIER OVER THE HOLIDAY BREAK! The likelihood of getting Condition D met and thus observing an R&R increases when the time under submission includes the winter break. Last year, in fact, I had greater than 50% R&R rate on submissions when their submission timeline included holiday break. My success rate on submissions not including the holiday break was less than half of that. Now, some of this difference could be stochastic; some of it could be due to other factors not related to the holidays (journal type, time spent on manuscript, previous reviews, etc). However, I think a lot of it has to do with the holidays making reviewers happier and more willing to write nice things about manuscripts. This might have something to do with the amount of eggnog, whisky, or sugar cookies ingested during the review process. More research is definitely needed.
As a result of this preliminary analysis, I’m using Thanksgiving break to polish a manuscript with a secret “happy holidays” somehow embedded in the font. I’ll submit it in early December. Enjoy your Thanksgiving!