Context: A submission to a very good generalist journal X received one positive referee report recommending publication and two shorter opinions which both deemed the paper a solid and valuable contribution and thus worthy of publication but perhaps not a priority given the backlog this journal has, thus only weakly recommending publication. Given the fairly high standing of the journal this logically resulted in a rejection.


  1. Would it be appropriate upon resubmission to a new journal Y to inform the editor of Y of the existing detailed referee report at X? (To be clear: I do not mean sending them the actual report, just making them aware of its existence)

Upshot:the referee's time is not wasted, in particular as the detailed referee report from X is the most thorough report I have ever received (out of over 100), the paper is quite technical in places and the expert referee has spent considerable amount of time on it.

Drawback: The paper starts on the bad footing of being a rejected one, but I think this should not be a big problem if Y is e.g. a specialist journal or if Y is deemed not as "highly ranked" as X. Moreover during the review process at X the referee asked for some clarifications and suggested some improvements which has led to a better paper. I think that even when resubmitting elsewhere we should keep the thank you to an anonymous referee for suggested improvements which already shows the paper was rejected, thus the drawback is there anyway.

  1. If the answer is yes to 1) should one ask the editor of X beforehand whether it is ok to pass on their contact details to potentially transfer the referee report to the editor at Y?

Personally I think the answer is "Yes" to both questions but hearing other people's perspective is very interesting.

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    $\begingroup$ This question may be not just math specific and so may get some good answers also if posted to academia.stackexchange. $\endgroup$
    – JoshuaZ
    Dec 28, 2020 at 22:06
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    $\begingroup$ I have long wanted to start a journal with no refereeing and just one rule: Along with your paper, you must submit the referee reports showing that your paper was almost, but not quite, accepted at one of the top five journals. All submissions that comply with the rules are automatically accepted. $\endgroup$ Dec 28, 2020 at 22:53
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    $\begingroup$ There are a few journal pairs $X_1,X_2$ (e.g., Forum of Math, Pi and Forum of Math, Sigma [disclosure: I am an editor at these two journals]) in which a paper which is rejected for $X_1$ but with decent reports can be recommended instead for $X_2$ without having to go through the refereeing process again. $\endgroup$
    – Terry Tao
    Dec 29, 2020 at 1:41
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    $\begingroup$ Commenting since this is only anecdotal rather than from experience as an editor: quite a long time ago, I had an article rejected from journal J despite a positive referee report, where something in the editor's wording indicated that it was just a case of "no room at the inn". At a friend's suggestion, I submitted to a lower-level journal Q whose editor was a colleague of the one at J, and managed somehow to make both aware that there was a referee report that could be re-used. The article was accepted in Q, not immediately but quickly enough that I'm sure they did re-use the referee report $\endgroup$
    – Yemon Choi
    Dec 29, 2020 at 1:50
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    $\begingroup$ When I was a journal editor, I would be absolutely delighted if the author indicated that I could get a referee report without having to pester half a dozen (or more) people who are apparently too busy to even answer emails. I was realistic about the status of our journal, so knowing that the paper had been rejected from another journal would not a priori be a problem. It would not necessarily affect the final decision but it would speed things up. $\endgroup$ Dec 29, 2020 at 13:20

3 Answers 3


For many journals the referee is asked to tick a box when they submit their report to indicate whether or not they (1) allow the report to be used for another journal and (2) whether their identity may be disclosed to the editors of that other journal.

Given this practice, the answer to question 1 would be a "yes". Whether or not the report is then actually transferred from journal X to journal Y (anonymously or with the identity of the referee disclosed) would be something journal X decides based on whether or not the referee authorized them to do so.

Concerning question 2, I don't think you need permission beforehand from journal X when you inform journal Y of the existence of a detailed report.

This complication will hopefully become a thing of the past, when more and more journals migrate to a practice where referee reports are public documents, even if anonymous.

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    $\begingroup$ I am routinely asked to check this box, and I always do. So the practice seems to have spread pretty widely. $\endgroup$
    – Deane Yang
    Dec 29, 2020 at 2:22
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    $\begingroup$ I wonder how widespread this practice is. I have refereed a fair number of papers (even including re-submissions to a second journal where I was the referee in both cases) and I don't think I was ever asked that question. $\endgroup$ Dec 29, 2020 at 14:12
  • $\begingroup$ It seems to me that ticking that box would just cascade the paper down within the same publishing house, but not elsewhere, e.g., not from Springer Journal A to Cambridge Univ. Press Journal B. The author may have had different ideas where the paper should end up. $\endgroup$ Dec 30, 2020 at 18:24

This is not really an answer, but it might be informative. The BE Journals in economics (of which there are several: The BE Journal of Macroeconomics, the BE Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy, the BE Journal of Theoretical Economics, etc) label each published paper as belonging to one of four "tiers": a Frontier, an Advance, a Contribution, or a Topic. Frontiers are supposed to be papers that would be suitable for a very high-end journal, Advances suitable for something a little less selective, and so on.

When you submit a paper, it's considered simultaneously for all four tiers. The idea is that instead of aiming high and then re-submitting a little lower down after a rejection, one effectively submits to four different journals simultaneously (and there is a single refereeing process where referees recommend not just acceptance, but acceptance to a particular tier). I'm not sure how successful this has been, but it's been successful enough to survive for, if my memory is correct, about 25 years now.


The following might be useful to have in mind:

if your paper is rejected at journal J1 and submitted at J2, the information at the J2 editorial board that it was rejected at J1 might be considered as negative, especially if the editorial board of J2 considers J1 as being of equal or lower level (which might not coincide with your own appreciation, or of J1's editorial board or referee in case they recommended J2 as alternative — keep in mind that the appreciation of the journal level varies according to subtopics and countries).

  • $\begingroup$ I agree this is a risk, and highly dependent on the view of the handling editor. $\endgroup$ Dec 29, 2020 at 21:28

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