A reader writes:
I have recently learned that some grad students in my department hold the following belief: journals are more likely to reject papers that advance a ‘negative’ argument and provide a response to some well-known view than a paper that advances a ‘positive’ account of some phenomenon. That is, even if editors receive a positive referee’s report that recommends publication of a (roughly put) response article, editors still frequently reject such articles in order to publish ones with a “positive” account. Thus, grad students have been put off from submitting papers to journals, as they have felt this to be futile: I don’t yet have a positive alternative account of x, so submitting a paper that discusses someone else’s a view of x is futile, because it’ll get rejected anyway.
Thinking so struck me as prima facie false. Plenty of response papers are published by top journals (my own work being a case in point). But hearing this also got me worried: is there something to this? I always advice my grad students to start by publishing ‘negative’ parts of their dissertations first, but if the above view has something to it, my practice may be misguided. Then again, if the above is false, grad students need to know that. What do you think?