We had a paper rejected on the 2nd review this past week. Some of the comments were ok and fixable. But the main logic the editor used to reject the paper was that our paper dealt with Toxicology, not necessarily Anatomy, which thus removed itself from the umbrella subject matter of the journal (the paper was on tox effects on bone in an particular taxon). I have 2 beefs (which I’m considering sending to the editor):
1) They could have rejected us on this criteria upon our 1st submission and not wasted 2 reviewers’ time (both reviewers found the paper acceptable with slight revisions; it was the editor that chimed in as the dissenting opinion) as well as ours. The paper had been been turned down for review by other journals for its Tox subject matter. So to reject the improved paper-we did what the editor asked (which cost some $$)- on a criterion that should have occurred early during the submission project grinds my gears.
2) Said journal publishes numerous papers on the effects of drugs, hormones, and other chemicals/enzymes etc on bone and other connective tissues. So what’s the difference between a common pollutant, and any other chemical you stick in your animal? I’d like to know. Fluorescing Bone labeling dyes, could be considered toxic to reptiles given they chelate calcium and can thus be detrimental to your low metabolic rate animal. I’m not a Tox person, but it all seems the same to me.
This scarlet letter of toxicology is worrisome to me (again, i’m not a toxicologist) because, apparently you can’t get Tox papers into normal organismal biology journals–they all go to a handful of Tox journals. But results like the ones our paper discusses are important to organismal researchers that study (or collect) natural populations of animals…those populations are exposed to various pollutants, oil spills, Ag runoff and the like, and these exposures may be manifested in their phenotypes and skeletal tissues. This in turn may actually impact your results and observations depending on if your animal is stressed out, under physiological duress, or already manifesting problems you might not see from the outside.
Recently in journal club we discussed a paper from the last 5 years that was studying bone phenotypes from “natural populations” of our beloved North American crocodilian. However, one group of animals (the individuals were pooled in the paper) came from a string of lakes in North Central Florida renowned for agricultural runoff and pollution; papers have been published on the obvious and deleterious effects of these pollutants on the physiology and skeletal phenotypes of the animals (males suffer some “shrinkage” among other effects). Organopollutants (from oil spills, Ag runoff etc) have an established literature that indicates they have effects on the endocrine system and skeletal tissue regulation. So I wonder if these animals are good, representative individuals to use in not only understanding the biology of this taxon, but then to use these data to comment on the biology of their extinct relatives. We should be careful.
Regardless of our paper’s fate, it is important for biologists to know where their animals come from. Given our current issues with the environment, its likely going to be a growing concern.