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I'm not sure if other people have noticed, but there have been quite a few questions which pose a scenario that seems borderline unbelievable.

Example.

They [Springer] accepted the project, I signed the contract and they told me over 14 MONTHS ago that they'd send it for peer review and be in contact with me in due time

There is no way Springer will sign a contract agreeing to publish the manuscript and then send it for peer review, because if the review turns out to be strongly negative, they'd still be compelled to publish. Any publisher will get the review done first and then sign the contract.

Edit: This infographic from Springer backs up the above that review is performed first and only afterwards is the contract signed.

Example.

In my university it is typically the case that advisors are first authors

This is so far from academic norms that it's very hard to believe.

What should be done about these questions? Downvoting still leaves the questions there, which (pessimistically) could still contribute to misinformation about Springer/academia.

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    While the question itself may have merit, I do not consider these examples unbelievable. I have never published a book, but my understanding of the process is that you first need to find a publisher who is generally willing to publish a book from you on the topic, if peer review is successful. The second example is sad, but totally within my expectations. We have had several reports of single supervisors acting like this here; an entire institution of them doesn’t come as a surprise.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Apr 11 at 6:03
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    Related, if not duplicate: What to do with questions that are likely to be made-up click bait?
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Apr 11 at 6:05
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    Wrt the second issue: The comments (by the OP) indicate that this is in a third world country. Quite frankly I find this quite believable in anywhere but the West (and even there, it's not all roses either). Apr 11 at 9:17
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    If my question on editors was unbelievable, consider that the contract (I haven’t read it in 15 months) obviously most probably says that they can reject it if the reviewer rejects it.
    – user354948
    Apr 11 at 20:07
  • @Wrzlprmft find a publisher who is generally willing to publish a book from you on the topic, if peer review is successful - exactly. The process is publication proposal -> peer review -> agreement signed -> manuscript submitted - production. It's extremely implausible that the order can be reversed. There is something glaringly wrong with the question.
    – Allure
    Apr 12 at 7:18
  • Other dubious things: 1) it doesn't take 1.1 years to review a book proposal, since it is after all just a proposal written in accessible language, plus review for books is nowhere near as rigorous as for journal articles. 2) Most books have no 'academic editor'. It's possible there is one, but then it would be a specific type of book (e.g. review volume - but in this case there is no "book manuscript").
    – Allure
    Apr 12 at 7:23
  • Here's an other question of the same type: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/203702/…. Like this one, it describes something that's unbelievable, but it makes the named parties look bad to people who aren't familiar with how the process works. Very cynically, one might even say they're "hit questions".
    – Allure
    Apr 12 at 7:27
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    @Allure Is your concern that they're naming particular publishers or journals ("hit questions"?), or that they're unbelievable? Do you think that the meta post that Wrzlprmft linked covers your question or no? If not, why not?
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Apr 12 at 19:14
  • Another relevant meta thread: academia.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4471/…
    – PLL
    Apr 13 at 6:07
  • @BryanKrause Both - it's because they both name the parties and are unbelievable that they become "hit questions". Wrzlprmft's linked question is related, but also does not cover the question, since a made-up question has no adverse effects.
    – Allure
    Apr 13 at 9:14
  • @PLL yes but there still comes a point where things cease to be believable. If there's an institution with a policy that all supervisors should be authors on their students' papers, that's believable; if it's all supervisors should be first authors on their students' papers, then it's beyond believable (at least to me).
    – Allure
    Apr 13 at 9:17
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    I removed a number of comments here, mostly between the OP and the author of one of the linked questions, as things were getting heated and we were getting into the minutiae of Springer's procedures. This is, however, a good example of why jakebeal's answer is correct: it turns out that at least one of the exemplar questions was asked in good faith, and so trying to selectively delete "unbelievable" questions is a bit of a minefield.
    – cag51 Mod
    Apr 16 at 14:09
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    Folks: I am extending some goodwill because I know that this is something you both feel strongly about, and because being accused of writing an "unbelievable" question can be insulting. But I'm ending the discussion here. Please review our code of conduct; some of the comments I removed were over the line.
    – cag51 Mod
    Apr 16 at 15:08
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    I'm puzzled by the accusations of unbelievability. For the "authorship policy", no one has ever stated that this was an institutional policy, just that it's how things are done at their institution. Culture is powerful. That it's stupid culture does not make it unbelievable especially when it would benefit the people with power to change it; there are far more unbelievable things that also happen for real in culture of different institutions and groups.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Apr 17 at 23:08
  • For the book contract, it seems this post is insisting that a contract before a review step is unbelievable because it makes that review step meaningless. I guess I'm not an expert on book contracts but the contracts I'm familiar with are full of contingencies. "I promise to do X if you do Y". It's absolutely reasonable that a contract would include promises by both side and contingencies on next steps. There are often questions here that strain credulity, these do not seem like strong examples.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Apr 17 at 23:10

2 Answers 2

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I think that there is no reason to treat questions that seem to involve very strange or difficult to believe circumstances as invalid.

For example:

  • The questioner may be dealing with a process that has gone very wrong in some way.
  • The questioner may have a basic misunderstanding of the process they are dealing with.
  • The question may involve another case where academia varies more than you think it does.

In all cases, the first step should be to ask for clarification that can help shed light on the circumstances, rather than to assume a position of disbelief.

Yes, some of these things should almost never happen. Questions, however, are going to come from the cases where things have gone wrong, not the cases where they have gone right, so we shouldn't be surprised to see many real strange situations.

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The first example put forward as unbelievable merely stems from OP here not having correctly read the source infographic. Proposal review (step 3) comes before contract. Manuscript review (step 7) comes after contract. Contract is step 5, you do the math. The false assertion to the contrary is misleading for unsuspecting readers and should be removed. About the other question I don’t know, but I’m from the Third World and anything can happen. For a truly unbelievable question, yes, they should be removed. But these aren’t good examples.

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