Is there a meaningful way to refute an article? I tend to think that it must be one through which the author can at least learn something.
- 1. The refusal must be motivated. To say "it does not suit our journal" is not enough. The author should be given enough elements to judge and improve.
- 2. The review process must be as transparent as possible.
- 3. The reviewers must not be suspected of not being able to understand or to evaluate the article (i.e., they must know its topic well enough to be able to evaluate its value).
- 4. If possible, rather than refute, one might suggest improvements. Of course, this implies that the dead-line must allow extra time for substantial improvements. It is just sad to know that you are given no second chance, although the problems pointed out might have been remedied.
- 5. Particular caution might be needed in case of papers which cannot be "recycled". In other words, before asking for a paper in Montenegrin about a finety of ancient Indian phonetism, consider whether the author is really likely to produce something you will be able to publish.
By the way, I have just had an article refuted by a journal whose editor had asked me to write something for a special issue (on a topic connected to religions). This made me rethink about the general topic of refuting articles from a different standpoint:-))