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Scholarly Publishing and Open Access blog

The latest news and answers to your questions about scholarly publishing and open access.

Scholarly journal rejection rates

Published November 2, 2019 by David Gill

As early career researchers, you might have heard of your colleagues discuss rejection rates/acceptance rates for scholarly journals. 

How are rejection rates/acceptance rates calculated? 

Unfortunately, the journal industry does not have a set standard on calculating rejection rates/acceptance rates. Some things journals could consider: 

  • The total amount of papers sent to them
  • Only papers within their aim and scope (Make sure you look at the website to understand the aims and scope of the journal. You should also read previous issues to get the sense of successful papers that have been published.)
  • The amount of papers they sent for peer review 

How can you find rejection rates/acceptance rates?

There are a variety of ways of getting rejection rates/acceptance rates information. A summary report on journal operations is published every year by American Psychological Association for their journals.  You might also want to look at the journal website or editorials by the editor. If you’re unable to find publicly available information, you could contact the editor of the journal. Jenny Delasalle (2016) in her A Librarian Aboard blog has a few recommendations on how you might approach an editor and questions to ask.

How much should rates factor into your decision where to publish?

Along with rejection rate/acceptance rate, you might want to consider the impact factor when choosing a journal. Impact factor refers to the amount of citations an article receives over time. If you would like to learn more about impact factor and other metrics in evaluating scholarly publishing, be sure to read SFU Library's guide on Impact Metrics: Scholarly PublishingHigh impact journals frequently have high rejection rates but they can be still be high for lower impact journals. If you publish your work in a low impact journal, it might have a impact on your job or research grant applications so it's important to find a balance between rejection rate and impact. Critics of high impact journals say editors publish the “splashiest papers” to increase the impact. This means that good quality research might be rejected because it may not bring enough citations to the journal.

An avenue you might want to consider is publishing through an Open Access journal which will help you align with the university's policy on open access and requirements from funding organizations. Additionally, Glover et al. (2016) suggested that early career researchers submit their work to Open Access journals because they prioritize “scientific soundness of the article, rather than the potential impact” (p. 5) and this might increase your chance of being published. If you’re thinking of publishing in an open access journal, make sure to read SFU Library’s guide on Open Access: Scholarly Publishing.

Remember that rejection is part of the process and it can make a nice skirt too.

Suggested readings

Delasalle, Jenny. (2016, February 25). How to speed up publication of your research – and impress journal editors [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://jennydelasalle.wordpress.com/2016/02/25/how-to-speed-up-publication-of-your-research-and-impress-journal-editors/

Delasalle, Jenny. (2017, November 17). Choosing scholarly journals: Peer review, time and rejection rates [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://jennydelasalle.wordpress.com/2017/11/17/choosing-scholarly-journals-pr-time-rejection/

Glover, N.M., Antoniadi, I., George, G.M., Götzenberger, L., Gutzat, R., Koorem, K., Liancourt, P., … Mayer, P. (2016). A pragmatic approach to getting published: 35 tips for early career researchers. Frontiers in Plant Science, 7 (610). 1-7. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2016.00610

Mukherjee, Debdut. (2018, August 3). Choosing the right journal – A comprehensive guide for early-career researchers [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://blog.typeset.io/choose-right-journal-early-stage-researchers-guide-ea2cf236dde4

Mukherjee, Debdut. (2018, March 7). 11 reasons why research papers are rejected [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://blog.typeset.io/11-reasons-why-research-papers-are-rejected-3e272b633186