tommy.jensen@sbs.su.se johan.sandstrom@ltu.se

A desk reject


Again, this is a post more towards fellow academics, but with some relevance for the ‘universe’ outside academia as well.

We just got a decision from the scientific journal Work, Employment & Society that our qualitative paper on the Canadian case was not sent out for review, a so-called desk reject. This is not the first time it has happened to us(!), but it always brings out the bad-loosers in us. Then things usually calm down and we re-work and submit it to another journal. Sometimes this ‘cycle’ takes years, which is also where the practical relevance comes in: it is very tempting to just publish the paper here on the blog so it is up to all of you to decide its relevance and usefulness. Maybe we’ll do this eventually.

Why was the paper rejected then? Here is the letter-from-the-editor in full (anonymized):

Thank you for submitting the above manuscript for consideration in Work, Employment and Society, which I read with interest. I have decided not send it out for review, and will set out my reasons for this.

This is a well written paper about a an interesting topic. You have located it well in the sociological context and in terms of current debates, and no doubt the research will at some point form the basis of a good paper.

However, there is a significant problem with your methodology, insofar as it can be understood from your paper. Firstly, I was unclear as to how many interviews had been conducted, with the demographic profile of the participants, and with the form of the interviews. It was not clear how interviewees were selected, nor what the ‘meetings’ constituted, nor whether interviews with contractors were recorded.

Secondly, interviews with ‘people’ at the mine were described as informal and therefore not recorded, although the sentence setting this out appears to contradict itself on this point. If these were miners, as distinct from managers and administrators, we need to know if they were invited to participate in interviews and declined. More generally, we need to know whether participants gave any sort of informed consent to the use of their words, and whether the quotations used were from transcriptions or from the notes you say were made shortly after the informal conversations.

These are important points, and as it stands the lack of clarity regarding methods means that the paper is not suitable for publication in WES.

There is clearly useful material in your research, and I would encourage you to address these points in preparing a paper which is closer to being in a publishable form, whether in another sociological journal or in one dealing with industrial relations or human resource management.

I am sorry not to be the conveyors of better news, and wish you well with redrafting the paper for submission elsewhere.

Our view is that these objections/questions can be viewed as fair (and highly manageable) reviewer comments, but not grounds for a desk reject. We looked forward to a discussion on the actual substance of the paper, its ideas and contributions, but missed this opportunity, based on objections/questions more on form than on content.