Scientific discussion or intimidation?

Most of the editorial rejections we received were rather generic – not interested to our (unspecified) audience or not in the scope of the respective journal. However, the editors of the Journal of Experimental Biology did suprise us by disqualifying our work for questionable reasons. We expressed this surprise in a letter to the journal’s leadership and were quite surprised by the response.

As the people involved are not that important to the larger point I have removed all identifying information. The point we tried to convey is that JEB has a strong tradition in mechanistic biomechanics which it seems to break with the new focus on “comparative physiology and biomechanics”.


From our viewpoint this has been a rather measured and levelled response. The adressee, who received it on June 23rd acknowledged receipt and without further comment forwarded it to the editor again.

Instead of addressing our concerns we were accused of using “emotive language”, attempting “to provide a history lesson on the field of comparative biology” while “using a tone that was apparently intended to discredit and intimidate.”. This notion was seconded by leadership, stating that they found our correspondence “to be unacceptable” and “belittling of [the editor’s] original decision.”.

We were stunned! We believed to have addressed a valid concern about the major direction of the Journal, using historical evidence to underline this concern and the shift and were now reprimanded for not discussing the scientific points raised by the editor. But there were no scientific points – the criticism concerned amost exclusively the lack of suitability for JEB and applicability to comparative biomechanics.

At his point we understood that our original fear of losing a historical home for biomechanics research had materialized and we had to find other outlets for the time being. We hope that at some point JEB returns to its roots and broadens the focus beyond comparative biology again.