Publishing success: the role of setbacks in the revise and resubmit process

The perceived difficulties of a 'hard' revise & resubmit letter can be offset by the size, experience and past success of the authorship team, says Drs Brianna Barker Caza & Lu Wang

In organisations, teams are becoming the common vehicle for making decisions, problem solving and generally, just getting tasks done. WOW’s Dr Brianna Barker Caza and her University of New South Wales colleague, Dr Lu Wang, have viewed publishing research in academia through such a lens, asking what are the characteristics associated with positive responses to publishing setbacks — and specifically, hard revise and resubmit (R&R) journal submission letters — by teams of co-authors?

Within an organisation, a setback is a challenging work-related event that might derail a worker from achieving their career goals; and individuals respond in many different ways to it. Some burnout or give up, others thrive despite, or because of, the experience, and many simply cope or recover, temporarily loosing normal functioning capacities which gradually return after a period to position the same worker back at their pre-setback level.

“The currency of respect in the academic world is publishing”, notes Dr Wang. “…a major revision of one’s research can be viewed as a setback that prevents the research from being published and there are implications, on your career for example, if you cannot or do not publish.”

Using the (first round) major R&R decisions from 128 academic manuscripts submitted to a prominent management journal in 2008 and 2009 (116 co-authored, 12 single authored), Lu and Brianna have considered how the size, experience, and previous publication success of each unique team of author/s moderates their views about the difficulty of the requests being made of them, and the likelihood of the research eventually being published.

Dr Brianna Barker Caza
Dr Brianna Barker Caza

So what makes an R&R ‘difficult’? Here Drs Wang and Barker Caza (pictured left)engaged a junior and senior academic in the management field to review the first two paragraphs of each of the 128 letters to assess the word count, negativity, and quality (that is, thoroughness, constructiveness, justification, politeness) of the journal’s response to the manuscripts. In doing so, Lu and Brianna identified how an increased ‘difficulty’ sees a manuscript less likely to be published, and the effect that a ‘low quality’ review has on authors’ perceptions about how hard the task of revision is seen to be. Despite the findings, however, larger teams with more experience and/ or more past success were more likely to capitalise on these ‘difficulties’, attaining more positive outcomes than those without such characteristics.

In concluding their 23 September seminar, Dr Wang highlighted the pace-setting nature of this study for its consideration of teams, rather than individuals, and the importance of understanding success through worker’s setbacks and how they influence team outcomes.

Contact the Centre Manager for a copy of the PowerPoint presentation from this seminar: [email protected] or phone 07 3735 3714.