Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Good professional karma

I have never been so excited over an article rejection as I am right now.

Let me back up for just a minute. One of the lessons my thesis advisor taught me, which I didn't fully appreciate at the time, was how to deal with rejection. He was a master of knowing when the reviewers had legitimate points in rejecting a paper and when they were full of crap. He could see personal agendas (even in the face of "blind" reviewing) from a mile away. And he taught me to notice all of these things when reading a review. Most importantly, he taught me how to always take something positive out of even the most awful and egregiously wrong reviews. (Thanks, thesis advisor!) These skills have served me very well in my professional life thus far.

So anyway, I just had a paper rejected from a conference. (It might still be accepted as a short paper, though, so there's still some hope.) But the reviews of this paper were not only extremely helpful (some things that were flagged, I anticipated, but some were things that I did not catch that absolutely should have been flagged), they also indicated that the paper actually does not need all that much more work to make it publishable! A lot of the comments addressed things that we did, but did not explain well enough in the paper--easily fixable. Other comments addressed things that we should have done that we're either doing now or plan to do very soon--again, easily fixable. But the best part is that all of the reviewers agreed that this is novel and interesting work, and that they look forward to seeing the paper in more polished form! Woo hoo!!!

It was really nice to get this sort of ego-boost. I'm at a point right now where I'm stupidly excited about my research anyway, but to get validation like this from my external colleagues is very, very cool. The only downside is that now I want to spend all of this time working on my research, when in reality I have to split my time among this and other things, like classes and writing my review prospectus. Boo!

This of course more than makes up for the last conference paper review I got.


Turtle said...

Okay, I'm a bit confused here -- was this an outright rejection, or really a revise & resubmit? Pardon me if I'm being persnickety, but as someone who works with a journal, I'm surprised at how many times people mistake a request for a revise & resubmit for a decision to reject the manuscript. At least in our case, if we send out a revise and resubmit recommendation, it means that at least one person on the editorial board would really like to see the paper published. Sometimes it's striking a balance between split reviews (at least one positive and at least one negative), or all reviewers agree the manuscript has the making of a solid publication, but needs some reworking. I definitely get excited about revise and resubmits and see them as largely good news.

Either way, glad that your peers recognize the contributions of your work. I'll have to pick your brain sometime about things your thesis advisor taught you about dealing with rejection.

Jane said...

Turtle, this was a conference paper, which is basically yes/no w/ no "revise and resubmit" option. That said, often the rejection comments will indicate how close the paper was to being accepted...and these reviews indicated that this paper was most likely one of the "finalists" that was ultimately passed up for a slightly stronger paper. So that's why I was so excited about the rejection.

I'd be happy to pass on my learned "wisdom" about rejection! Although to be honest, some of my attitude about rejection is probably also due to the thick skin I've had to develop as a survival mechanism... :)