Growing From Rejection: How to Make it a Positive Experience - ACS Axial
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Growing From Rejection: How to Make it a Positive Experience

Rejection is part of the academic process. Not all papers make it to the publishing stage, so rejection is common. The way researchers handle this rejection, however, can make this a learning opportunity.

First thing’s first: walk away from the computer. So says Professor Peter License of the University of Nottingham and Associate Editor of ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering recommends. Take yourself out of the “pressure cooker of science.” Take a walk and try understanding what the reviewer is saying.

Professor Stuart Rowan of the University of Chicago and Editor-in-Chief of ACS Macro Letters has similar advice from personal experience. “Do not email anyone straight away,” he explains, “give it two or three days.” Giving it time allows researchers to come back with a cooler attitude.

Professor T. Brent Gunnoe of the University of Virginia and Associate Editor of ACS Catalysis says the key is to not take it personally. It’s difficult to do because the research has taken months, and often years, but reading the reviews as advice will often improve your skills.

Professor Audrey Moores of McGill University and Associate Editor at ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering builds on this by saying you should read each critique carefully, one at a time, and then going back to make the changes.

“Consider the possibility that the reviews might be right,” said Professor Olaf G. Weist of the University of Notre Dame advises. Ignoring the corrections won’t help you write a better paper, so it’s best to learn what needs to be improved.

Professor Johnathan V. Sweedler, James R. Eiszner Family Endowed Chair in Chemistry and Director, School of Chemical Sciences, University of Illinois, and Editor-in-Chief of Analytical Chemistry says yes, you may write a response to your reviewer, but don’t send it. Take time to think about it before responding.

Modern reviewers, however, are much more open to legitimate rebuttal, says Professor Phil Baran of The Scripps Research Institute and Associate Editor of Journal of the American Chemical Society argues.

Professor Peter License of University of Nottingham and Associate Editor of ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering says to embrace the rejection. Journals wouldn’t be diverse if they accepted all submissions.

Rejection is normal. Taking it in and allowing some time lets you review the criticism with a clear head. When you don’t take it personally, you’re able to re-evaluate and learn from it. If you believe you’ve been wrongly rejected, consider an appeal.


For more publishing tips, visit the ACS Publishing Center, a centralized hub for researchers to prepare and track manuscripts. This website features centralization of information for ease of discovery of resources on submission, open access licensing, peer review education and more. Customized publishing information, including tracking of your published work, is available upon login. Log in today to discover how the ACS Publishing Center can help you advance your research.

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