My Paper Road Block

If you remember, in my previous essay My Paper Road to Academia, my big plan was to write lots of academic papers. So far I have written eight papers this year (seven of them are uploaded to the arxiv). I also have ideas and partial results for 19 more papers, but I have stopped writing them. Here is the story of My Paper Road Block.

I started sending my papers to different places, where they were rejected. Then I was invited to the Gathering for Gardner. Participants are allowed to publish their paper in the proceedings of the conference, but we have to pay for it. So this publication really felt more like adding insult to injury than a lucky break.

Finally I realized that I can put three lucky letters — M, I, and T — on my papers. I don’t remember if I told you that I am currently holding a visiting scholar position at MIT.

I continued sending my papers out without receiving any positive response. As a result of these rejections and the long waiting periods to receive an answer, my writing process slowed down until it halted.

To my delight, a month ago I received letters of acceptance for three papers, almost simultaneously. Here is the tally so far for my eight papers:

  • The number gossip paper for the Gathering for Gardner, which I can’t count as a reviewed publication.
  • A paper which I’m too superstitious to describe because I am still waiting for the response.
  • Three papers which were accepted.
  • Three papers which were rejected (one of them twice).

The funny part is that on all the accepted papers I was affiliated with MIT, and on all the rejected papers I was not.

To be fair, I have to admit that there might be another explanation. All the accepted papers were sent out later in time. Perhaps I’m getting better at choosing the right journals.

Because of inertia, I’m still not writing papers. On the positive side, I have more time to write for this blog, and it is much more rewarding. Sometimes I reject my own essays. Sometimes I send them to myself for revision. But I judge my pieces on quality, not on my affiliation.


One Comment

  1. Maria Roginskaya:

    There are a lot of parameters which different referees use to admit ir reject, so submission of a paper is always a lotery – you can get a referee which would judge your paper on its merits (even here tastes vary), or you can get one who will look on your previous list of publications and the affilation. Normally the probablility of which type of referee you get depends from the journal, but it is always strictly between 0 and 1 (except for very bad journals).

    Once my collaborator and I have got rejected a good paper on the basis that the proof was too simple. Then we have submited it without changing a word to another journal and it was accepted with a praise for the simplicity of the proof (and I suspect the both journals use the same pool of referees). Conclusion: one shouldn’t have too much feelings about a single referee report, but just check it for advices which may be useful and neglect points on which you disagree strongly (unfortunately it takes on average half a year to get each report, so it may take time to get it accepted).

    PS. I have once as a referee rejected a paper on the basis that there was an unfixable mistake in a proof, but then got to referee it again with the same mistake in the proof – so some points of disagreement can not be neglected (but it has nothing to do with your case)

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