Sample Cover Letter for Journal Manuscript Resubmissions

By Roy F. Baumeister

Dear Sir, Madame, or Other:
Enclosed is our latest version of Ms # 85-02-22-RRRRR, that is, the re-re-re-revised revision of our paper. Choke on it. We have again rewritten the entire manuscript from start to finish. We even changed the goddamn running head! Hopefully we have suffered enough by now to satisfy even you and your bloodthirsty reviewers.

I shall skip the usual point-by-point description of every single change we made in response to the critiques. After all, it is fairly clear that your reviewers are less interested in details of scientific procedure than in working out their personality problems and sexual frustrations by seeking some kind of demented glee in the sadistic and arbitrary exercise of tyrannical power over helpless authors like ourselves who happen to fall into their clutches. We do understand that, in view of the misanthropic psychopaths you have on your editorial board, you need to keep sending them papers, for if they weren’t reviewing manuscripts they’d probably be out mugging old ladies or clubbing baby seals to death. Still, from this batch of reviewers, C was clearly the most hostile, and we request that you not ask him or her to review this revision. Indeed, we have mailed letter bombs to four or five people we suspected of being reviewer C, so if you send the manuscript back to them the review process could be unduly delayed.

Some of the reviewers’ comments we couldn’t do anything about. For example, if (as review C suggested) several of my recent ancestors were indeed drawn from other species, it is too late to change that. Other suggestions were implemented, however, and the paper has improved and benefited. Thus, you suggested that we shorten the manuscript by 5 pages, and we were able to accomplish this very effectively by altering the margins and printing the paper in a different font with a smaller typeface. We agree with you that the paper is much better this way.

One perplexing problem was dealing with suggestions #13-28 by Reviewer B. As you may recall (that is, if you even bother reading the reviews before doing your decision letter), that reviewer listed 16 works that he/she felt we should cite in this paper. These were on a variety of different topics, none of which had any relevance to our work that we could see. Indeed, one was an essay on the Spanish-American War from a high school literary magazine. The only common thread was that all 16 were by the same author, presumably someone whom Reviewer B greatly admires and feels should be more widely cited. To handle this, we have modified the Introduction and added, after the review of relevant literature, a subsection entitled “Review of Irrelevant Literature” that discusses these articles and also duly addresses some of the more asinine suggestions in the other reviews.

We hope that you will be pleased with this revision and will finally recognize how urgently deserving of publication this work is. If not, then you are an unscrupulous, depraved monster with no shred of human decency. You ought to be in a cage. May whatever heritage you come from be the butt of the next round of ethnic jokes. If you do accept it, however, we wish to thank you for your patience and wisdom throughout this process and to express our appreciation of your scholarly insights. To repay you, we would be happy to review some manuscripts for you; please send us the next manuscript that any of these reviewers submits to your journal.

Assuming you accept this paper, we would also like to add a footnote acknowledging your help with this manuscript and to point out that we liked the paper much better the way we originally wrote it but you held the editorial shotgun to our heads and forced us to chop, reshuffle, restate, hedge, expand, shorten, and in general convert a meaty paper into stir-fried vegetables. We couldn’t, or wouldn’t, have done it without your input.

Sincerely,

Is This the Worst Academic Journal Ever?

Update: Since I first drafted this post, ABRJ has revamped it’s website. Not to worry, it’s still hilarious.

Spoiler alert: yes, probably.

We are all aware of the growth in open access ‘journals’ of dubious quality, but my attention was recently drawn to one of the worst examples I have ever seen. It is so bad, and unintentionally hilarious, that I couldn’t resist sharing it.

The American Based Research Journal (ABRJ) is, and I quote, an “Open-Access–Monthly–Online–Double Blind Peer Reviewed Journal”. This American based journal lists a UK contact address, which google earth shows to be a rather nondescript suburban lane on the outskirts of Manchester.

This is far from the first warning sign. The mere scope of the journal is baffling: “All areas of Accounting and Finance, Business, Management, HRM, Marketing Computer Science, Engineering, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences and Arts (Including Fine Arts) are covered”.

In case that isn’t broad enough, the page provides a long list of specific topics, ranging from “Fundamentals of Income Tax” to “Fashion Designers” and “Fashion Trends”.⁠ The latter two are inexplicably linked to some dodgy looking .biz fashion website which, at the time of writing, hosts a fascinating article entitled “What To Wear With Peasant Top This Summer”.

ABrj-final-logo

The logo the Journal chose to convey this broad scope? A DNA double helix.

As for its peer review policy, the website explains:

We adopt double blind peer review policy in which both authors and reviewers are kept anonymous to each other so as to maintain the high technical and quality standards as required by the researchers’ community these days.

Researchers these days are so picky, with their newfangled double blind studies and whatnot.

The ‘journal’ regularly spams scholars asking them to submit, but at the very least the emails are (unintentionally) funny. Jeffrey Beall has archived it online for posterity. Showing that the sender never learnt how to do a mail merge, the email starts:

Dear Dear Author, We are really impressed after reading your research work: ‘Research Article’

It continues:

Our journal American Based Researche [sic] Journal… with good reputation and published by USA PhD Doctors Collaboration and referred from them, which focuses on business, management,… and relevant subjects.

Online publication costs only $150, and the reader is exhorted to submit  “articles for publish from students, Research scholars and professors for Calls for Papers-Sep-25-2014 publications”.

Here comes my favorite bit. The email is signed:

Best wishes
Editor
Dr. Merry Jeans
New York, USA

No matter how many times I’ve read it, I still chuckle a little at Merry Jeans, possibly the funniest fake name ever concocted. Or is it? The editorial board of ABRJ features other gems, including “Dr. belly Joseph”, “Dr. Jazzy Rolph”, and “Prof. William” (no surname), while reviewers include a “Dr. Phineas drown”. At some point I stopped even bothering to google these names to confirm my strong suspicion that none of them really exist.

This journal is so obviously bullshit, but I had to know who was behind it. I dug around a bit and found that ABRJ’s web address is registered to one Abid Ali from ‘Zoom SEO Services’, based in Lahore, Pakistan. A couple of searches later and I found myself on his personal blog site, which consists of one rather telling page.

Ali is/was in fact a student of the Virtual University of Pakistan (incidentally a real bricks and mortar university, not actually a virtual one). He gloats that his blog had previously been shut down because he had been posting completed university assignments. To his apparent joy and amusement, he reregistered the name when it became available again, only to make this one announcement.

It perhaps comes as no surprise that the worst of all the awful fake open access journals that I’ve seen to date comes from the bedroom of some cheating student in Pakistan – half the battle in the internet age is that pretty much anyone with a computer can throw together a sham journal and, apparently, make some cash.

As Derek Lowe puts it: “It’s a long way down, that’s for sure, and the bottom is nowhere to be seen.”⁠

5 Super Specific Academic Journals

Academia is known for its ever-increasing specificity and specialisation, and, in the internet era, quantity. There are approximately 47,845 academic periodicals currently in circulation, churning out research papers on a mind-bogglingly wide range of subjects.1 Inevitably there are some rather odd publications out there. Here we present our top five.

6a3d7cc28ed7fe2bd1e51770e88d1b01

1.  American Journal of Potato Research (AJPR)

TAJPRhere are about 196 countries in the world, depending on how you count them. The best estimate we have of the number of known plant species is around 400,000,2 though we probably really don’t have the foggiest. 20,000 of these are edible,3 yet somehow we humans have managed to whittle this down to just 20 species that provide 90% of our food.4 Apply this tendency to academic publishing and you get the American Journal of Potato Research.

Highlights:

Sad Potato

  • In addition to the usual full-length articles, AJPR welcomes “short communications concisely describing poignant and timely research”. Poignant?! As in “evoking a keen sense of sadness or regret“?! How exactly one writes about potatoes with a keen sense of sadness or regret is beyond me.
  • Discovering that you too could become an Honorary Life Member of the Potato Association of America. Something to aim for.
  • Feeling genuinely sorry for the lack of love the Potato Journal is getting on social media: 85 likes on Facebook and 50 followers on Twitter. Can we help them out a bit?

2. Rangifer: Research, Management and Husbandry of Reindeer and Other Northern Ungulates

Proudly billing itself as “the world’s only scientific journal dealing exclusively with biology and management of arctic and northern ungulates, reindeer and caribou in particular” one has to wonder if we haven’t stumbled upon a topic so specific that one volume would suffice. Yet Rangifer is still going strong after 34 volumes.

Highlights:

  • Description of an “enigmatic group of arctic island caribou” (PDF).
  • Reindeer. Lots and lots of Reindeer.

3. Journal of Near-Death Studies (JNDS)

jndsExploring near-death experiences, empirical effects and theoretical implications, out-of-body experiences, deathbed visions, after-death communication and the implications for an understanding of human consciousness. Despite the niche subject matter, the JNDS says it is “committed to an unbiased exploration of these issues and specifically welcome a variety of theoretical perspective and interpretations that are grounded in empirical observation or research”.

Highlights:

  • Realising that all of that sounds quite a lot more interesting than your own research.

4. Answers Research Journal (ARJ)

In contrast to JNDS’ commitment to allowing challenges to its niche, the ARJ is perhaps the only journal in the world that openly declares that it will only publish articles that accord with a pre-established hypothesis. The Journal, titled as if to deliberately obfuscate the content, publishes:

research that demonstrates the validity of the young-earth model, the global Flood, the non-evolutionary origin of “created kinds,” and other evidences that are consistent with the biblical account of origins

Still, at least they are telling you up front what you need to say to get published.

Highlights:

  • The series of articles attempting to estimate the number of various species types aboard Noah’s Ark: Crocodiles & Turtles, Snakes, Amphibians, Frogs, Mammals, Dinosaurs5… We’re going to need a bigger boat.
  • Lots of sentences consisting of 50% science followed by 50% amusing nonsense. E.g., on the genus Acrochordus: “because of its fully aquatic existence and capability of osmoregulating in hypotonic and hypertonic aquatic environments, it is potentially capable of surviving Flood conditions and are not included on the Ark“.
  • Extensive author guidance on how to reference the Bible. E.g.: “Lowercase for divine dwelling places, including heaven, hell, and paradise.”6 

5. Journal of Negative Results in BioMedicine (JNRBM)

Lovingly called “the world’s most boring journal” by the Washington Post, the JNRBM actually serves a very important purpose:

You might imagine that JNRBM is a place where losers gather to celebrate their failures, kind of like Best Buy or Division III football. But JNRBM meets two important needs in science reporting: the need to combat the positive spin known as publication bias and the need to make other scientists feel better about themselves.

Realising the growing tendency for scientists to publish only positive results, JNRBM instead encourages the “publication and discussion of unexpected, controversial, provocative and/or negative results”. The Journal is also pushing the envelope in the other ways, recently implementing an open peer review policy, whereby reviewers sign their reviews and their reports, and authors’ responses, are made available. This Journal may just be a taste of things to come.

Highlights:

  • Lots of failed hypotheses, obviously.
  • ‘The female menstrual cycle does not influence testosterone concentrations in male partners’ (PDF).
  • ‘False rumours of disease outbreaks caused by infectious myonecrosis virus (IMNV) in the whiteleg shrimp in Asia’ (PDF).

Anybody managing to publish in all 5 of these journals will be handsomely rewarded.

 

  1. Calculation from http://pages.cmns.sfu.ca/heather-morrison/appendix-c-how-many-active-scholarly-peer-reviewed-journals/
  2. According to Botanic Gardens Conservation: http://www.bgci.org/ourwork/1521/
  3. According to Plants for a Future: http://www.pfaf.org/user/default.aspx
  4. Ibid.
  5. just kidding, the dinosaurs didn’t make it to the boat on time.
  6. The full guide is available here: https://legacy-cdn-assets.answersingenesis.org/assets/pdf/arj/instructions-to-authors.pdf