Reflecting on my Journal Paper Submission

post by Matthew Yates (2018 cohort)

On 16th June 2022, my paperEvaluation of synthetic aerial imagery using unconditional generative adversarial network was accepted into the following August edition of the journal “ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing”. This was my first paper to get published and also my first time going through the academic peer review process.

Although the paper has only just been published in summer 2022, the research began in 2019 with much of the initial work taking up a large portion of the first year of my PhD. The motivation for the paper was to take all the early research I had been doing for my PhD Thesis and produce a deliverable publication out of it. The reasons I was keen on doing this was that it would give me chance to get ahead of the Thesis writing end stage of the PhD as this paper would more or less cover the first empirical chapter, it would also help introduce me to the process of peer reviewing which I did not really have any prior experience with.

After delays due to the outbreak of COVID and the subsequent lockdown measures, the paper was submitted to the Journal of Machine Learning in summer 2019. The scope of the paper had been stripped back from the original ideas, with fewer models being benchmarked due to the inaccessibility to the Computer Vision GPU cluster at that time. After a couple of months of waiting, the Journal came back with a “Major Revisions” decision along with plenty of comments from the 3 reviewers. The reviewers deemed the paper to be lacking a substantial enough contribution to warrant publication at this stage and there was a general negative sentiment amongst the reviews. I then resubmitted a month later after responding to the reviewer’s comments and making large amendments to the paper only to get a rejection after the next round of reviews. As this was my first paper I had tried to get published I was rather disheartened in receiving this decision after spending so much time on the work. My supervisors were less concerned, having gone through the process many times, they told me this was fairly normal and it would be a good idea to submit to a different venue which may be more appreciative of the work.

In early spring 2021 I sent the paper to the ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing. The decision I received here was another rejection, although this one came with much more constructive criticism and I was advised to revise and resubmit at a later date. As this was over a year on from my original submission attempt I had also been working on additional research for my PhD and then made the decision to incorporate some of these new results into the original paper, significantly increasing the contributions of the work. At this point my primary supervisor Mercedes Torres Torres, brought in Michael Pound to help add a new perspective on the work and give me some new feedback before resubmission. After submitting to his new journal again in October 2021 I was given a “major revisions” decision in December 2021, the reviewers who were a mix of old and new from the last failed attempt at the same journal had responded much more positively to the changes and additional content but thought it still required additional work and depth in some parts. Now in January 2022, I resubmitted, hoping that this would be the last time but received another round of corrections in April. At this point I was getting fairly fatigued with the entire process, having done the bulk of the work years ago and each round of revisions taking months. Luckily the reviews in this last round were positive and only one of the 3 reviewers called for additional work to be done. As I could see I was close to publication I went over all of this final reviewers’ comments in detail and responded accordingly as I did not think I could face another round of revisions and wanted to move on to other research. Luckily the next decision was an acceptance with all the reviewers now satisfied with the work.

The acceptance of the paper was a huge relief as it felt like the time and effort myself and my collaborators had put into the paper was finally vindicated. I was additionally pleased as this is my first publication, something I had been looking to achieve for a few years now. The paper also represents the first part of my PhD project and gives that whole stage of research more credibility now it has gone through the peer review process. Following this publication, I have now been invited to be on the list of reviewers for the journal if anything in my field is submitted. This is something I would be interested in doing to get an insight into the other side of the review process which could feel quite opaque at times. I have also been invited to publish further research in other related journals. These initial responses to the publication have shown that it was worth enduring through the rather lengthy and sometimes unpredictable process of peer reviews.