Why Do Most Academic Papers Get Rejected?

Numbers don’t look encouraging

Papers Get Rejected

If you look at the number of academic papers rejected every given year from a variety of institutions in the United States, the numbers don’t look encouraging. Not by a long shot. In fact, we’re talking about a 1,000 to one success rate at certain organizations.

Now, a lot of this has to do with basic economics. As you probably already know, if there is a scarce resource and there are a lot of people competing for that resource, the first thing that would happen is the price will rise. Pretty straightforward. Not much to think about.

The same applies to academic papers. When there are only a few spots in a very prestigious academic journal, you can bet that there will be a lot of demand, not just in the United States, not just on the basic academic levels in the US, but also from all over the world. Because the more attractive the resource, the more competition there will be to access that resource. What do you think happens then? Well, it’s a simple case of filtration.


Now, what disappoints a lot of people and causes a lot of misgivings is the fact that it’s not predictable.

It doesn’t really matter what your connections are. It doesn’t really matter whether your submission came from a very prestigious institution. It’s as if all the traditional rules of connection, academic prestige and institutional weight have been thrown up in the air and the whole picture has been turned upside down. But that’s the kind of world we live in.

Back in the day, and I’m talking about 50 years ago, you can bet that if you went to the right school and enrolled in the right program, and was mentored by the right professor with the right set of connections, who is then plugged into the right network, whatever you submit will get accepted. I know that’s kind of a bold claim, but it’s absolutely true. You can submit a shopping list and a certain journal will publish it. That’s how closed the system was.

As you can well imagine, close systems are not exactly popular now because that old boy network or the monopoly system sucks. It really does because it tends to encourage stagnation. It’s like political dynasties. Idiots get elected again and again by the strength of their last name. That’s hardly a winning formula for a very competitive, open-ended academic market.\

So as painful as it may be to get your academic paper rejected, please understand that it’s part of a very hopeful process because now that we have an open market of ideas and academic production, the old rules have gone down the toilet. Instead, it all boils down to how good your paper is for a specific purpose at a specific institution.

Now, there’s still a lot of chance attached to this, but it’s definitely much better than some sort of closed system where you just need to know the right people for you to get published again and again and again.

So the short answer to the question posed by this article is simple. It’s all about the open nature of the modern academic production process.