Submitting a manuscript for publication is vital in the research cycle, and identifying the appropriate journal in which to publish it can be challenging. Authors lose time and effort when a journal rejects their manuscript. The process of finding a new journal and resubmitting can be both exhausting and time-consuming. Additionally, 15 million hours of researcher time are estimated to be lost annually on repeated reviews for succeeding journals. Having a seamless mechanism to transfer articles between publications that use different submission and peer-review tracking systems could help address both challenges.
Transferring peer review
The ‘transfer’ or 'cascade' process is intended for papers that editors/reviewers determine are inappropriate for the journal to which they were originally submitted. Adopting the concept of 'cascading peer review' can lessen peer review strain. This model, first used in the early twenty-first century, continues to be still widely used by publishers even today. This system aims to prevent manuscripts from being ultimately rejected by transferring them to potentially more relevant journals within their portfolio, thereby saving costs and increasing efficiency. Apart from avoiding the duplication of having a paper steered through the peer-review process multiple times, internal manuscript and peer-review referral services can benefit authors by expediting publication.
Cascading commonly refers to the process by which papers turned down by journals that are of first preference to the author are transferred to alternative journals within the publisher's portfolio. Mechanisms include automated manuscript transfer, where manuscripts are rerouted via a link provided by the manuscript editor; peer review consortiums, where rejected papers are routed to consortium journals; and a soft cascading approach that offers more suitable publication venues.
The acceptance criteria for journals that use this model within a publisher's portfolio vary significantly, ranging from tough to soft. Acceptance criteria may include novelty, methodology, and readability for a broader audience. Cascaded peer review can help reduce costs associated with manuscript re-evaluations and also promote alternative journals. Authors, on the other hand, may decline to submit their manuscripts to these suggested journals, assuming that journals with low acceptance thresholds may be encouraged to use soft editing and peer review practices rather than rigorous peer review.
Advantages of a transfer over straight rejection
Following the initial peer review or re-review of the amended version, the editor will decide if the manuscript can be accepted, should be denied, or be invited for further refinement. Any of these options can be made in conjunction with a proposal to transfer the manuscript to another journal in the publisher's portfolio. Unless the author specifies otherwise, the transfer can also occur automatically upon rejection for the journal to which the article was originally submitted. Apart from transfers initiated by the editor, authors may also request transfers.
Cascading peer review and manuscript transfer benefits the author when an article is rejected by a particular editor/journal. While around 70% of submitted manuscripts are rejected, many are rejected due to lack of suitability to the journal rather than the quality of research. Following further evaluation, editors/reviewers may identify rejected manuscripts of sufficient quality as candidates for recommendation to another relevant publication. A high-impact journal must be selective in its publication, and it cannot publish the nth feasibility, pilot, or usability research. Authors must be aware of this limitation. Often, the manuscript can subsequently be reframed (as a study protocol or techniques piece) and accepted for publication in other relevant journals in the publisher's portfolio. By utilizing the manuscript transfer option, authors save time by avoiding the need to resubmit to another publication and by not having to wait for fresh reviews. Most often, the editor and reviewers remain the same, which has the advantage of eliminating the need to wait for new reviewers or editors to be identified. Additionally, the author benefits from the fact that the submission date remains constant, which is critical for asserting priority claims for ideas. If the authors were to withdraw the manuscript and resubmit it elsewhere, the submission date will undoubtedly change.
More than half of the journals published by Wiley1 are part of a transfer network. The Transfer Desk Assistant (TDA) from Wiley is an intelligent mapping tool that assists in locating appropriate journals for a manuscript within Wiley's portfolio and accelerates the resubmission process. TDA analyses an article and recommends potential alternative Wiley journals using machine learning technologies.
SpringerNature's Transfer Desk2, a comparable manuscript transfer tool, enables writers to easily resubmit their paper to a more appropriate journal. Transfer Desk subject matter experts examine manuscripts using innovative journal matching technology, taking submission preferences and any Editor or reviewer comments into account to determine the optimal journal match.
Manuscript Exchange Common Approach (MECA) – what is it?
Representatives from Aries Systems, Clarivate, eJournalPress, HighWire Press, and PLOS convened together in 2016 to address inefficiencies in the way manuscripts were transferred across their submission systems.
Manuscript transfers between journals and publishers increased as more publishers implemented cascade policies. Given that the paper's metadata was already stored in the submission system, it made sense to transfer it to the new publication along with the manuscript. This is a relatively straightforward process if both journals utilize the same submission system; and a slightly more complex process if the publisher employed various submission methods for each publication in their portfolio or among partner publishers.
A consortium of manuscript/management service providers and publishers have collaborated to provide a standardized strategy that may now be broadly implemented throughout the industry.
Approved as a NISO Recommended Practice in June 2020, the MECA Recommended Practice is the result of successful engagement with partners from throughout the publishing ecosystem to provide a framework for low-barrier manuscript exchange.
Many publishers have introduced services to (re)route rejected articles to comparable journals within their field in order to reduce costs and improve efficiencies. Apart from avoiding the redundancy of having a manuscript steered through the peer-review process a second or third time, internal manuscript and peer-review referral services provide genuine value to the submitting author. They also help the author get their paper published faster.
Straive has invested in technology and SMEs as part of its Innovation labs to develop and deploy solutions around reviewer search and transfer management. Our Transfer Desk Suite, an automated system for the transfer of rejected journals to other suitable journals, allows for a seamless, scalable, and efficient transfer process. Our long-term engagements with our partners clearly demonstrate our capabilities across the publishing value chain.
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