Congratulations! Your already-published article has just been rejected

Eiko Fried

All rejection is hard to take. But, as one psychology researcher has found out, “having a paper rejected half a year after publication is something new …”

We’ll explain.

In January 2021, Eiko Fried, of the Department of Clinical Psychology at Leiden University, in The Netherlands, published an article in Psychological Inquiry titled “Lack of Theory Building and Testing Impedes Progress in The Factor and Network Literature.”

Since then, the paper has been viewed more than 2,400 times and cited a handful of times.

But on May 17, Fried received an email from the journal, which is published by Taylor & Francis, with unfortunate news: His article, according to the support administrator, was “unsuitable for publication.”

Of course, that was a glitch, as Fried immediately knew: 

I received the email from the editorial system that I posted on Twitter. It is obviously a mistake on the side of the system (papers aren’t “rejected” 6 months after publication, after reviewer comments). So there is no issue, and certainly no retraction. Someone on the side of the journal probably cleaned up old files and probably made some sort of mistake. 

Fried forwarded us an apologetic email from the journal stating as much. We also heard from the editor, Wil Cunningham, who blamed the hiccup on the creation of a “duplicate record” that generated an “automatic email response” to the author. 

Fried is taking the matter in good humor — although he has had to clarify his tweet to reflect as much: 

I’ve been talking about this to the editor in emails, for whom I have the greatest respect. We both know this was clearly a simple, stupid mistake based on some sort of system glitch, and not the editor’s or the journal’s fault. No harm was done. I told him I posted it online knowing that obviously there is no problem here, and I also posted it in a way that I thought it was obvious to everybody else there is no issue. Again, because papers aren’t rejected (after peer review) after publication. Plus, the message contains an accidental double negation, making it look comical.

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4 thoughts on “Congratulations! Your already-published article has just been rejected”

  1. Not as new as you might think! Pretty much the same thing happened to me in 2008 with this paper – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18809388/

    Submitted it, got a rejection letter the next day saying “unsuitable”. Wrote a protest email. Response 2 days later saying “congratulations, accepted!” Then 3 months later a new email with reviewer comments saying “sorry, rejected”, after it had already been published!

    1. Wrote a protest email. Response 2 days later saying “congratulations, accepted!”

      That must have been one heck of an email!

  2. The journal publication management systems must leave a lot to be desired with respect to usability. In my investigations I have seen duplicate publications that were submitted on the same day but published in subsequent issues of the journal (see https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25755756/ vs. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25973069/) or even suddenly republished 7 years later (see https://europepmc.org/article/PMC/3016475 – 2005 – vs. https://europepmc.org/article/PMC/3523454 – 2012).

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