Did you write an excellent manuscript with ground breaking data that will have a great impact on the research in your field? In that case you should definitely submit your manuscript to an extremely high-ranking journal, such as Nature or Science or the top-ranking journal in your field. If your data are however good but are not expected to result in widely shared press releases and interviews in major newspapers, you may want to submit your manuscript to a good or excellent journal where you have a realistic chance of getting it accepted for publication. To select a relevant journal start with reading my tips, as it will greatly improve your chances of getting your manuscript accepted and reduce your frustration caused by rejected articles.

Acceptance rates of high ranking journals are low. For several journals, studies have shown the number of submitted manuscripts, number of manuscripts sent out for peer- review, and the final number of manuscripts accepted for publication. One of these studies analysed the Nature journals. From March 2015 to February 2017 the number of manuscripts submitted was 128,454 of which 79% was rejected outright. After peer review another 56% were rejected, leading to an overall acceptance rate of about 12%. For the journal Nature itself this rate was less than 7% of the 20,406 manuscripts submitted.

Many journals publish their acceptance rates on their websites, although it is sometimes not clear whether these refer to percentage of peer-reviewed manuscripts or percentage of total manuscripts submitted. Below I have indicated the acceptance rates of a number of life sciences and medical journals, with a link to the source of the information.

Acceptance rates according to journal websites (in December 2020)

Science rejects about 80% of submitted manuscripts during the initial screening stage, and accepts less than 7% of the original research papers submitted.

Nature has acceptance rates of various years on their website, with the last year with data 2017, that year the acceptance rate was 7.6%.

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) accepts about 7% of all the 7000-8000 manuscripts submitted each year, but many of these are not research articles. Only 4% of research articles are accepted.

Other journals in the BMJ group: Gut 14% acceptance in 2019, BMJ Open 50% in 2019, BMJ Case Reports 54% in 2019, BMJ Global Health 44% in 2019.

The New England Journal Medicine (NEJM) receives more than 16,000 research and other submissions for publication each year. About 5% of the original research submissions are accepted for publication.

PLOS ONE is a respected journal with a very broad scope that has an acceptance rate of over 47%.

PLOS Medicine has an acceptance rate of about 10%.

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)’s acceptance rate is 11% of the more than 7,000 major manuscripts it receives annually, and only 4% of the more than 4,400 research papers received.

The acceptance rate of some other Elsevier journals: The Lancet has an acceptance rate of about 5%. The Journal of Pediatrics: 18.9% in 2019. Biomaterials: 13.5% in 2019. Gastroenterology acceptance rate of 10-12%.

The Journal of Adolescent Health had an acceptance rate of 15% in 2010, I could not find more recent data.

Be aware of predatory journals that will accept anything. These are low quality journals.

The average acceptance rates of Dove press journals was 29% in 2019. Dove Press was also originally on the list of predatory publishers but has since been removed.

The acceptance rates of all Hindawi journals can be found on one page and range from 6% to 58%. Note: some Hindawi journals have been suspected to be predatory journals, but are now considered borderline.

Presubmission Inquiries

Authors who would like to know whether their manuscript would be appropriate for publication in a specific journal can sometimes send a presubmission inquiry to the editors. The minimum requirements for presubmission inquiries are often an abstract and a cover letter. Find out on the website of the journal whether this is an option.

acceptance rates of papers are low
Cartoon by Nick Kim, Massey University, Wellington via Science and Ink