I was recently asked to review a manuscript by an international society-level journal. I have reviewed for, and published in, this journal on several occasions and feel a certain professional obligation towards this particular publication. That said, the quality of the manuscripts I review for them is highly variable, and I have gotten some real poop sandwiches over the years.
The manuscript I was most recently sent was closely related to work I did as a postdoc and bore directly on data I produced then. Based on the abstract I agreed to the review and almost immediately regretted doing so. The thing was a train wreck. The analysis and interpretation of the data were a disaster and the authors blatantly ignored several key pieces of relevant data*, despite citing the papers in the text. My review was not complimentary.
About a month later I was asked by the Associate Editor if I would be willing to review the revisions. I agreed, because it had to be better, no? Hahahaha. Well, they included the data, but the interpretation was still painfully contrived, leading to the same conclusions of the original draft. Once again, I made my opinion of the work clear.
Two weeks later I got an email saying the paper had been recommended for publication by the AE.
There are few things more frustrating than taking the time to do a comprehensive review and then being patted on the head as the AE ignores your objections. At that moment I decided I was taking a break from that journal. We needed a little time to sort through our differences.
A month has past and this week I got an email from a friend who has just taken over as Editor In Chief of the journal. The manuscript I had review was still on the table during the EIC transition and I was being contacted to sort out what was going on with the manuscript. The new EIC had read it and came to the same conclusions I had. Unable to determine why the AE had sent it forward I was asked if there was a step in the communication trail that the EIC was missing. Nope.
After a brief exchange, the new EIC rejected the paper.
I have no idea what the former EIC thought of this situation or the AE in charge of handling it, but knowing the new EIC is willing to directly address quality issues in a hands on way has restored my faith in this journal. Maybe even enough to dig out that old manuscript I have been meaning to send there for a few years...
*Yes, some were mine, but they really were relevant in more than just the "how could they ignore my important contribution!" sense.