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I would like to know if the following question would be appropriate for academia.SE

Several times now I've had desk rejections from journals in pure mathematics that are variations on the theme of 'we have a large backlog of very good articles, so unfortunately we won't even be sending your paper to a referee even though we might ordinarily do so'. I suspect this is just euphemism for 'we aren't interested in your paper/your paper is not good enough/go away', as claiming a large backlog seems to me to be more objectively defendable than making an editorial decision (ie 'not significant enough') and standing by it on its own terms. Alternatively, it may be phrased this way to soften the blow in claiming to not make an explicit judgement call on paper quality.

Is this common practice among editors and/or journals? I haven't in my admittedly limited experience heard similar wording in rejections from, say, experimental sciences journals. More controversially, am I correct in my reading, that it is just euphemism? (If so, I do not appreciate it, in the interest of academic honesty over lawyer-approved weasel words.)

  • What you are talking about is called lie, not euphemism. (Ironically, the act of calling it euphemism would be euphemistic, though.) – Wrzlprmft Nov 9 '15 at 21:29
  • @Wrzlprmft it may not be a lie, in that it is true they have a backlog, but what journal doesn't? But I'm looking for feedback as the appropriateness of this question. – David Roberts Nov 9 '15 at 22:02
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    If they do have a backlog, but that’s not the reason why they reject your article, it’s still a lie, if they say so. Anyway, it’s certainly not a euphemism. — But I'm looking for feedback as the appropriateness of this question. – I know, that’s why I posted a comment and not an answer. – Wrzlprmft Nov 9 '15 at 22:10
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I do not see anything that would make your first question (“Is this common practice among editors and/or journals?”) closeworthy. However, I suggest to clearly state that you want answers that are at least somewhat based on first-hand experience (i.e., by editors of such journals or people obtaining trustworthy information from editors). Otherwise, I prophecise that you will attract useless “me too” answers and similar. Also be prepared to get no satisfying answer.

Moreover, I suggest that you should consider, whether you really want to use the word euphemism. If you decide to use it, I suggest that you clarify how you understand that term.

As for your second question (“More controversially, am I correct in my reading, that it is just euphemism?”), I fail to understand what exactly you are asking. If you are unsure about the meaning of the word euphemism, you are in the wrong place (you might ask at English Language & Usage). If you are asking whether your interpretation of the motivation for the presumed practice is correct, you should clarify this.

In the latter case, I think that it’s okay to ask these questions as one, as somebody who can answer your first question (from first-hand experience) is very likely to answer your this question.

  • Thanks for the suggestions, I'll take those on board, but wait for more support before I ask. As to your point on my second question, I know what euphemism means, and my given interpretation as above ("it may be phrased this way to soften the blow in claiming to not make an explicit judgement call on paper quality.") seems to fit it precisely. – David Roberts Nov 9 '15 at 23:02
  • I should add that my intended audience for the second Q is precisely editors, and the first question suits editors or otherwise people with a long publishing history who can perhaps point to an emerging trend. – David Roberts Nov 9 '15 at 23:04
  • @DavidRoberts: If you are still interested in asking the question, I would just go ahead w/o holding my breath for further meta support. The meta on this site has little traffic compared to MO or MSE, say, so that might take a while, or simply never happen. – gnometorule Nov 12 '15 at 16:10
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    @gnometorule alright, the question is asked, here: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/58097/… – David Roberts Nov 12 '15 at 22:49

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