Ouch! Missing reference

One of the first rules of drafting a scientific paper is that one cites the key literature in the respective field.  So as someone who teaches people how to write and publish in this week’s experience of getting a paper rejected was not great, if not disheartening!   Earlier this week we submitted a research paper to the Journal of Travel Medicine on a study of the health and well-being of female migrant workers in Nepal.  This is high quality journal in which we have published before, including one paper on migrants’ health [1-3]. 

Two days later the journal editor emailed us to say: “”We feel that the scope of your paper would not justify a full original article in the Journal of Travel Medicine”, which is, in our opinion, a fair judgement.  My co-authors and I between us have over 300 papers published and most have been rejected or at least we have been asked for a resubmission, so nothing new here. What was more upsetting than the rejection itself was the additional comment.  The editor added:

The authors should ideally include the two following references:

……(first reference omitted)   …. +

Identifying the gaps in Nepalese migrant workers’ health and well-being: a review of the literature.

Simkhada PP, Regmi PR, van Teijlingen E, Aryal N. J Travel Med. 2017 Jul 1;24(4). doi: 10.1093/jtm/tax021. Review.


We agree with the editor that we should have included the two listed key papers. Crucially, it is more than a little mistake to have missed the second paper since we wrote it ourselves.  There are many lessons to be learnt from this: (a) check you have covered the key literature in your paper, either in the Background section and/or the Discussion; (b) don’t underestimate the importance of your own work; (c) you’re never too old to make mistakes (and to learn from them); (d) be thankful for good editors and reviewers; (e) do what you advise others to do; (f) etc. ………………


In shame,

Prof. Edwin van Teijlingen




  1. Hind, C., Bond, C.M., Lee, A., van Teijlingen E. (2008) Needs assessment study for community pharmacy travel medicine services, Journal of Travel Medicine 15(5): 328-334.
  2. Bhatta, P., Simkhada, P., van Teijlingen E., Maybin, S. (2009) A questionnaire study of VSO volunteers: Health risk & problems encountered. Journal of Travel Medicine 16(5): 332-337.
  3. Simkhada, P.P., Regmi, P.R., van Teijlingen, E., Aryal, N. (2017) Identifying the gaps in Nepalese migrant workers’ health and well-being: A review of the literature, Journal of Travel Medicine 24 (4): 1-9.