Years ago my former doctoral student submitted a manuscript to the open access/open review EGU journal Climate of the Past. The manuscript about past climate variations in southern Ethiopia undoubtedly had its weaknesses and received negative reviews – and got rejected by editor Martin Claussen. Unfortunately, the rejected article along with reviews remains visible online at the CoP webpage and since then inspires reviewers of follow-up manuscripts submitted to other journals.
The manuscript written by the doctoral student was edited by too many coauthors. The reviews we received were … well, mostly justified. The rejection of the manscript, however, was particularly sad because, first, the doctoral student requires three manuscript to submit the thesis and a rejected manuscript obviously does not count. And second, because we paid a lot of money to submit the paper – Climate of the Past is an open access journal. The EGU changed the payment regulations at least, but not the open review system.
Well, since then we’ve been trying to publish improved versions of the story elsewhere. The same story did not work since the reviewers were refering to the manuscript which is now a Climate of the Past Discussions (CoPD) paper – is this a publication or not? The CoP webpage says that the rejected papers stay online with the value of an extended abstract, which is a little better than just a conference abstract. In other words, it does not help much for your career, which is so important if you are a young doctoral student.
Even worse, in four examples reviewers of updated versions of the paper – we have given that up in the meantime – or new stories based on the same data set, now dramatically expanded by new measurements, improved age models and sophisticated statistical analyses, submitted to different journals find the CoPD manuscript and get inspired by the reviews of that text. Can that be true?
Some time ago, we explained the case to CoP editor Martin Claussen who discussed it with the editorial board. Unfortunately, according to Claussen, the manuscript together with the reviews cannot be withdrawn and therefore stays online forever. And will continue inspiring reviewers of future manuscripts from us. I really can not recommend sending manuscripts to this journal – or any other journal with a similar, open review system.