The fate of triaged and rejected manuscripts

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Abstract

In 2011, Nephrology Dialysis and Transplantation (NDT) established a more restrictive selection process for manuscripts submitted to the journal, reducing the acceptance rate from 25% (2008–2009) to currently about 12–15%. To achieve this goal, we decided to score the priority of manuscripts submitted to NDT and to reject more papers at triage than in the past. This new scoring system allows a rapid decision for the authors without external review. However, the risk of such a restrictive policy may be that the journal might fail to capture important studies that are eventually published in higher-ranked journals. To look into this problem, we analysed random samples of papers (∼10%) rejected by NDT in 2012. Of the papers rejected at triage and those rejected after regular peer review, 59 and 61%, respectively, were accepted in other journals. A detailed analysis of these papers showed that only 4 out of 104 and 7 out of 93 of the triaged and rejected papers, respectively, were published in journals with an impact factor higher than that of NDT. Furthermore, for all these papers, independent assessors confirmed the evaluation made by the original reviewers. The number of citations of these papers was similar to that typically obtained by publications in the corresponding journals. Even though the analyses seem reassuring, previous observations made by leading journals warn that the risk of ‘big misses’, resulting from selective editorial policies, remains a real possibility. We will therefore continue to maintain a high degree of alertness and will periodically track the history of manuscripts rejected by NDT, particularly papers that are rejected at triage by our journal.

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