Feedback by Luca Trevisan on Opinion 61

Dear Professor Zeilberger,

you write:

"When your next paper gets 
accepted by a `prestigious'
journal, you have a right to be happy, since it is 
most likely a correct and solid 
piece of work. But if 
it gets rejected, because it is `not interesting or 
important enough', you should be even happier, since 
the probability that it is really a seminal paper is 
much higher than if it would have been accepted. Most  editors and referees prefer 
the same-old currently 
mainstream stuff, and usually don't have the vision 
and foresight to appreciate truly novel work."

We all agree that, conditioned on being seminal,
a paper is more likely to be rejected than 
accepted by a prestigious journal, but that's
different from saying, as above, that
a paper is more likely to be seminal conditioned
on being rejected than conditioned on
being accepted.

Suppose a 1/1,000 fraction of papers submitted
to prestigious journals are seminal, and
that presitigious journals accept a 1/20
fraction of overall submissions, and only
a 1/5 fraction of seminal papers.


Pr[ accepted | seminal] = .2
Pr[ rejected | seminal] = .8


Pr[ seminal | accepted] = 1/250
Pr[ seminal | rejected] = 2/2,375

(assuming I did my long divisions right)

Of course you would be right if prestigious
journals had a higher rejection rate
for seminal papers than for random papers.
But making such an assumption would be too unfair
to editors of prestigious journals.

All the best
Luca Trevisan

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