From the Journal: Why Are Certain Manuscripts Rejected from Headache After Peer Review?

New research reveals why manuscripts are rejected for publication in Headache after peer review.

Publishing academic manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals is a very competitive process: Most academic journals accept around 20-30% of manuscript submissions, while more competitive journals such as The New England Journal of Medicine only accept around 5% of submissions.

Participants of the American Headache Society’s Emerging Leaders Program decided to examine why certain manuscripts are rejected after peer review, specifically focused on Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain. A retrospective study published in Headache, Reasons for Manuscript Rejection After Peer Review From the Journal Headache by Chelsea M. Hesterman, MD; Christina L. Szperka, MD, MSCE; and Dana P. Turner, MSPH, PhD, analyzed all submissions to Headache from January 1, 2014, to December 31, 2016.

The researchers reviewed a total of 784 submissions to Headache, and discovered that 336 were rejected immediately, eight were accepted, six were withdrawn, while 434 continued on to the peer-review stage. The rejection rate after peer review was 35.7%, or 155 articles. Thus, the overall rejection rate was 62.6%.

Of the 155 articles rejected after peer review, researchers identified 19 potential reasons for manuscript rejection, with the average manuscript having five reasons for rejection. The six most common reasons a manuscript was rejected were: flaws in methodology and study design, poor reporting of methodology, poor statistical analysis, overstatement of conclusions, problems with covariates or outcomes, and problems with the control or case group.

Problems with the study’s methodology was the most common reason for rejection, and was present in 85.8% of the papers evaluated. In addition, 70.3% of the papers had flaws in “accurately and appropriately defining cases, controls, comorbidities and the various headache disorders being examined.” Additionally, 64.5% of the rejected manuscripts either overstated or did not adequately discuss conclusions.

The study’s authors concluded that researchers could increase their chances of getting their manuscript published in Headache by improving in various areas, including: better identifying their research question before collecting data; more thoroughly planning the study methods before collecting data; and discussing the study with a statistician.

The purpose of the Emerging Leaders Program is to identify and develop future leaders in our Society and the field of headache medicine. Participants of the program learn about opportunities within our Society, serve on special projects and engage with mentors. By the end of the year-long program, participants must complete and present a project to the Society’s Board of Directors. Dr. Szperka and Dr. Hesterman were members of the inaugural class of the Emerging Leaders Program, which launched in 2016.

The American Headache Society is committed to keeping its members up to date on the most innovative and meaningful advancements in the realm of headache medicine. One of many initiatives to support that mission is our publication of Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, published ten times per year, which highlights the latest findings in the realm of headache medicine research. Our “From the Journal” series offers a preview of some of the groundbreaking work detailed in Headache. Enjoy access to the full catalog of content plus a print subscription included with an American Headache Society Membership. Click here to become a member today.

1. Hesterman, C. M., Szperka, C. L., Turner, D. P. (2018), Reasons for Manuscript Rejection After Peer Review From the Journal Headache. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain.

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