A Rookie’s Guide to Dealing With Academic Rejection: Meet Deborah Aluh

Miss Aluh, Deborah Oyine (@debbilici0uss), Department of Clinical Pharmacy and Pharmacy Management, University of Nigeria Nsukka is taking part in Soapbox Science Lagos on 22nd August with the talk:“Unmasking the Silent Killer”

Deborah Aluh is a lecturer and a researcher at the Department of Clinical Pharmacy and Pharmacy Management, University of Nigeria Nsukka. She has just completed her Masters’ degree and is pursuing a PhD. Her PhD project will revolve around finding roles for pharmacists in reducing the burden of mental illness in Nigeria. Her Soapbox Science talk will be focusing on
the link between depression and suicide. Disability caused by depression is akin to chronic
physical ailments such as arthritis, hypertension and diabetes. Deborah will be highlighting ways to increase knowledge of depression and improve help-seeking behaviors.


A Rookie’s Guide to Dealing With Academic Rejection
By Deborah Aluh

I was so happy when my supervisor finally agreed that my masters’ thesis could be written up for publication in an academic journal. I had been dreaming of having it published and getting several citations. I had a list of three journals I wanted to publish with. I had cited them in my manuscript and thought they were excellent matches for my research study. After my supervisor had read through my manuscript, I expectantly submitted it to the first journal. After about a month, I got the rejection mail. It had not even passed the editorial review. I was able to get over the first rejection since my supervisor had warned me earlier to expect a major revision at best.

There was no peer review, which made it all worse. I prepared the manuscript and submitted to journal number 2. It was rejected within 24 hours. The subject of the rejection mail was ‘Immediate reject.’ Apparently, my article did not fit with the journal’s scope and they wished me well with my manuscript. I was devastated. I brooded over the rejection for almost a month before I pulled myself together to make another submission to the third journal on my list.

Lucky number three. This had to be it.

After about three weeks, it was rejected, again, without a peer review. The little shred of
confidence I had left was torn apart. I gave up on ever having my manuscript published. After another month, my supervisor had a long talk with me. He assured me that rejection was a ‘normal’ part of being an academic. He advised me to make submissions to journals that were specific to my research study. I had to lick my wounds and make another submission. This was after the manuscript had been reviewed by other members of faculty other than my supervisor.

I got a review within a month! The reviewers thought it a good and timely contribution to the topic and had only minor corrections. I was ecstatic! That was the first of subsequent
publications…..…and rejections, of course. Looking back now, it is obvious I had no chance at publishing in those journals. Two out of the three journals I had made my submissions to were interested in molecular research on cancer and not social research on cancer. The third journal was publishing a special issue and had specific topics they were interested in.

These days I’m smarter in choosing journals I make submissions to, and so, I hardly get
rejections at the editorial level. I also prepare my manuscripts from the outset now to follow and meet the guidelines of at least two journals. This helps to cushion the effect of a rejection, as all I have to do after a rejection is effect corrections made by the reviewers, and then, submit immediately to the alternative journal.

I have come to terms with the fact that rejection is a part of the profession; a job hazard if you may. One day I got rejection mails for two manuscripts and an application for a travel grant at the same time. Instead of crying, I got ice cream. Some scholars have suggested having a rejection ritual like planting a tree or something. If I do that, I would probably have an Amazon forest in my backyard. Oh well, whatever makes you feel good will do, in my opinion. That way, a rejection is not all bad, plus, you get to become a better academic, because, let’s face it, beneath the scathing comments, there’s almost always some truth in the remarks. I still read emails on manuscript decisions by taking sneak peeks with one palm over my eyes, but it’s not all bad, since I get to have ice cream in the worst-case scenario.

This entry was posted in 2019 speakers blog. Bookmark the permalink.