(I had this whole post ready talking about flexible representations, but now my computer is borked — stupid monitor! — so this is going to have to do.)
Tyler Cowen over at Marginal Revolution links to a piece by a former editor at American Economic Review</em telling all about how papers are accepted for publication. In economics this process may be slightly different, but I found the piece addressed several questions I had about the process.
I reject 10-15% of papers without refereeing, a so-called “desk rejection.” This prompts some complaints – “I paid for those reviews with my submission fee” – but in fact when appropriate a desk rejection is the kind thing to do. If, on reading a paper, I find that there is no chance I am going to publish a paper, why should I waste the referees’ time and make the author wait? Not all authors agree, of course, but in my view, we are in the business of evaluating papers, not improving papers. If you want to improve your paper, ask your colleagues for advice. When you know what you want to say and how to say it, submit it to a journal.
As noted above, some authors are irate about desk rejections on the principle that their submission fee pays for refereeing, or that they deserve refereeing. But in fact the editor, not referees, make decisions and I generally spend a significant amount of time making a desk rejection. I think of a desk rejection as a circumstance where the editor doesn’t feel refereeing advice is warranted.