Sunday, January 28, 2007

Rejection Letter to Professor Plumbago

(Guest post by Chris Plumbago, associate professor of urban planning at the University of Columbus. He/she invites comments or favorite examples of your own amusing, tragic, or tragically amusing rejections as comments. P.S. I am not Professor Plumbago.)

Dear Dr. Plumbago:

I am writing to inform you that your paper, "Understanding Roadside Ecology: Methodological Pitfalls and New Directions," has been rejected by the Journal of General Planning. Following our typical practice we sent the paper to an important practitioner and two highly distinguished academics. Although this process was slowed by some months because we lost your paper twice, as you can see two reviewers did not like the paper and the one who did had weaknesses in her/his own argument. As I am a very busy person I must defer to their wisdom. Thank you for considering the Journal of General Planning.

The Editor.

Reviewer 1:
This paper should not be published. It will turn back the cause of improved ecological design along highways for the next century. The questions it raises about significant problems with the current methods used to study roadside ecology, safety, and aesthetics might well undermine the capacity of advocates to argue for increased funding for shrubbery along freeways. Its proposal for more context-dependent and research-based solutions risk complicating the clear vision we have created focused on increasing roadside shrubbery. Papers such as this one should not be allowed in print. In contrast the work of Professor Hollyhock from the University of California at Malibu, unequivocally supports increased shrubbery in all parts of the interstate system. Hollyhock’s is the kind of work we need and papers such as this that raise questions, even if quite technical ones, about Hollyhock’s methods will undermine the potential for effective lobbying!

Reviewer 2:
This paper says nothing new about the subject of roadside ecology. Any expert such as myself would recognize the arguments in this paper. While the questions the paper answers are important and I cannot suggest another published or unpublished paper covering this ground, in future work the author may wish to refer to more work by those trained at my institution, particularly in the section on new directions. While I myself have not published in a double-blind peer-reviewed journal in more than a decade, I frequently review for such journals and try to raise standards. Specifically, the author should examine the work of my distinguished former student, Dr. Nightshade, on the closely related topic of memorial plantings in France. This insightful paper covers fully the relationship between mortuary traditions and planted materials and is a model for all papers dealing with the vegetated world. In addition, the author should of course have referred to the crucial 1967 University of Southern England environmental studies working paper on “Road Kill in Ecological Context.” This paper, by my good friend Dr. Hosta, is a model for such research, relying on his summer observations near his rather lovely vacation cottage in Cornwall. Of course any work on ecology in planning must engage fully with the work of Dioscorides on medicinal herbs; I was shocked that this important author had been omitted as the Greek original has recently been translated into German. Finally, the author may wish to peruse the attached four-page listing of readings from my last course on ornamental horticulture.

Reviewer 3:
This paper can be published as is. It is clearly written, beautifully illustrated, and will introduce a wide range of readers to this important topic as well as helping more expert readers see their field in context. While I hesitate to change such a well written paper, the author may want to examine a few recent pieces on related subjects that could enrich the argument of this article. In particular I refer to a really excellent paper by Plumbago and Lobelia dealing with approaches to ecology in planning. This is a well argued article that the author would do well to study in depth, and if possible reflect in this paper upon its basic arguments about ecological knowledge in applied contexts. In addition, while I know she is a mortal enemy of the editor of this journal, it might be interesting for the author of this paper to review Dr. Aspidistra’s MacArthur-fellow supported and Rome-Prize winning work on urban planting design. While somewhat tangential, it might be of interest to the author as a different kind of new direction. I look forward to seeing this paper in print.


randall crane said...

Again, I am only providing the venue here, dear editors especially, but I will add my favorite referee report in its entirety. I received this from a British economics journal some years ago, after a wait of perhaps 6 months. The report read, "I apologize for not having time to fully review this paper, but I favour rejection as the results are obvious."

Ray Burby said...

This post brought back fond memories of rejection letters. One of my favorites, not sent to me, was the one from a Chinese journal the gist of which was, this article is so excellent that we can't possibly publishing it, since no futures articles could possible live up to the standard that would be set.

My own favorite rection letter was in response to a research proposal rather than an article. The author of the rejection letter wrote to me that my proposal could not be funded because survey research was not an approved methodology. The agency was the Office Water Research and Technology in the U.S. Department of the Interior, which no longer exists (maybe for obvious reasons!).

Ray Burby


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