Are you still alive after paper rejection?

I have been thinking to start to write here for such a long time. Before corona times, I was running between the experiment rooms and finishing the days with some data analysis. While I was thinking a different life is not possible, the corona situation knocked the door wide open (or actually closed it…) and forced most of us to stay at home. This new lifestyle has supported me to write academic papers from the collected data.

While academic writing seems to satisfy my research-oriented needs, I always want to write down some stuff that’s detached from my academic topics but nevertheless occupies my mind. But a lack of trust in my writing skills (not just because of the language skills, also not having organised thoughts) has prevented me to begin and made me wait for inspiration.

It is funny that after a paper rejection (just happened some hours ago), I have an urge to write my thoughts, and check here again when the paper will be accepted (hopefully within this year).

After the first submission, I read a blog post about how to deal with the revision process. Instead of being protective to your research, you should take the comments as an upgrade chance of your research and the paper. After working more than two years on this project, I took notice that I have mother maternal instincts on the experiment and the paper. Thanks to the blog post, I conditioned myself to be open-minded to every comment and use them as a staircase for further development.

Seeing the rejection was, of course, a huge disappointment, but since we already have had a backup plan, having different views from reviewers seems to be a positive side effect of this process. However, reading the reviews made me more and more upset. Seeing that there were no constructive and formative comments made me feel that I wasted time to prepare the paper for that journal and wait through the whole process. It is a terrible feeling seeing that the idea that you are arguing for in the paper, was not seen and discussed in the comments. It is also not the best feeling to see how easily a reviewer can reject the paper with 3-4 sentences. Did I spend a lifetime to read a comment saying ‘who does this nowadays’ in a single sentence?

Having this down mood makes me think more about my research mission. How did I become a researcher who cares about impact factors, publication numbers etc.? I remember in my master years I was arguing with different researchers, that there is not a direct linear relationship between the researcher quality and the publication numbers. One part of me still feels true to my younger version’s side, while the other part, which moved to another country to have a successful scientific career, feels that the publications, accepted research proposals, conference talks etc. are the main reinforcers of starting a motivated day in the academia. Like most of the other scientists, I don’t have an unlimited contract and don’t earn a lot of money to keep my research desire fresh. Only investigating something and sharing this with other people via talks and publications motivates me to stay in science. I hope that my younger self is not that deep locked up inside and that she can help me to start the new day with hopes and research questions.

Update from the new day: still alive and motivated to work…

Neslihan Wittek
Doctoral Researcher

PhD student in Biopsychology, trying to explore the secrets of animals, working with pigeons