the five envelopes

I recently recieved a mismatched pair of comments from anonymous referees. One referee described the argument of the paper as “clear, succinct, and persuasive”. The other commented that the paper was full of “vague statements and unsupported arguments”.

The wonderful thing about these comments arriving together is that since both of these can’t be true, I feel perfectly free to believe the former, and reject the later comment as misguided. Into the recycling bin with you, while I bask in my persuasiveness.

Sadly the journal editor did not see it my way, and so I will have to send the paper (which I am now quite bored with) off to another journal.

Which brings me to the five envelopes.

A much beloved advisor of mine once told me of a colleague of his (I wish I could work a sister of a friend in there too, but alas it is not to be) who having finished a paper, prepared five envelopes addressed to his five prefered journals, wrote five cover letters, and made five copies of the paper. If the first choice journal rejected the paper, he mailed off the second envelope, and if the second also rejected it, the third, and so on. Only if all five journals rejected it did he read any of the comments he recieved from referees.

On hearing of the recent pair of comments, the beloved advisor said “Thats why you use the five envelope method.” I must admit the idea is growing on me.

If only because I do not want to think about this paper for one hour longer.

2 thoughts on “the five envelopes

  1. Scribo

    Clearly demand for blogs by people working in philosophy of language/game theory was too low, so now there is Scribo I also had an advisor who recommended the five envelopes method for getting articles published, but I’ve never got around to following …

  2. I think three out of four pair of reviewers’ comments that I get contradict one another. A recent pair I received:

    “a highly original contribution to a topic of central importance…engages well with the literature”/”neither defends an original thesis, nor advances new arguments in favor of that thesis…fails to engage with the literature”

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