Rejections are a basic part of academic life, but being rejected from a conference (book project, special issue) can be particularly frustrating, especially if it wasn’t a top-notch conference. It might have been that your abstract wasn’t written well. Panel organizers at most conferences receive (many) more submissions than they accommodate, and often the abstract is the basis for a selection. It might have been that you misjudged or undersold the paper. In this case, the paper is unlikely to be rejected many times if you just submit it elsewhere.
Often, however, the reason papers are rejected from conferences is that they don’t quite fit. It can even happen that a paper fits quite well with the conference theme or the call for papers, but there is a set of paper that speak to each other in a way that creates coherence. It can happen that a paper is outstanding, but is the only one focusing on a particular aspect, while others focus on a different aspect. (These are the most difficult papers to reject.)
What do we take away from this? Just like with journal articles, a single rejection doesn’t tell you much about the quality of the paper. There might have been other reasons. Consistent rejections, however, are a cause of concern…
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