Matthew Spiegel, a finance professor at the Yale School of Management, posted this nice article, which I just found out about. It ought to be required reading for journal editors, associate editors, and referees in every field. In it, he offers this gem of logic: Suppose you have an article recently accepted at Journal X. Now withdraw, and submit to Journal Y. The probability it will be accepted “as is” is zero. Therefore, even our publishable papers are unpublishable.
Colleagues, there is no shame in returning a paper to the editor with the comment, “A fine paper, worthy of immediate publication.” If that’s what you think, then say it! After all, every paper that you submit is worthy of immediate publication, right?
Here is the abstract from Spiegel’s article; it’s a great read: “Presumably, academic journals exist and publish articles to disseminate new ideas. Somehow that simple goal has been lost. Today, articles appear in print only after a referee is convinced that all other alternative explanations for its results have been ruled out. In reality, no article can exclude every possible alternative, so this is basically an exercise in futility. The criterion for publication should be that once an article crosses some threshold it is good enough to publish. The problem seemingly lies in our inability to say `good enough.’ But this is a problem we can fix.”