The power of resubmission?

Check this out: rejection can help your citations!  This sounds a little counter intuitive but is one of the conclusions of a piece of work published in Science recently by Calcagno and colleagues.  They have done this huge network based study of submission patterns within the biological sciences across some 923 journals involving some 80 thousand articles.    Some of their conclusions are obvious, scientists aspire to high impact journals and resubmit successively to lower impact journals when rejected, but others are not.  The paper’s particular focus is on the pattern of resubmission between journals when a manuscript is rejected.  The network of resubmissions is impressive and forms clear academic clusters.  Interestingly high impact journals publish proportionally more articles that had been resubmitted from another journal suggesting that even the best journals receive manuscripts rejected by others.  This makes sense to me, for example my own Science paper in 2009 was first rejected by Nature.  But the really interesting bit is that resubmission can actually enhance the impact of a paper post-publication in terms of citations.  The question is why?  Do good papers just shine through or is there something else?  The authors suggest that in fact this may be a reflection of the contribution of editors and reviewers to a paper enhancing that paper even if they ultimately reject it.  I like this because ambition and aspiration to the top journals, even if one fails in the attempt, gets its reward in the end!  Interestingly the survey also shows that authors are often very conservative in their journal choices placing material where they are confident it will be published.  In fact 75% of outputs in the survey are published where they were first submitted.  One could argue, however, that in being conservative we are in fact in some cases doing our work a disservice and that by exposing our work to risk of rejection it may often end having more impact.  One final parting shot from this great little paper; if you switch journal or discipline networks during the resubmission cascade your paper will do worse in terms of its post-publication impact.  Any way check it out a great study!

One Response to “The power of resubmission?”

  1. richard scullion

    There may be an attribution error in your piece… may simply be that more considered work is better cited. It may even be that the more hassle you have had with an article the more determined you are to ‘sell it’ to others. It remind me a little of a ‘theory’ is service marketing …along the lines of …the best way to maximise customer satisfaction is to handle a complaint well = you should cause yourself to get complaints!