It occurs to me that it has been something like five years since I've had a "revise and resubmit" verdict from a journal. In that time, I've had several papers accepted "as is," several more conditionally accepted as long as I am willing to make the changes and successfully execute, and a bunch of rejections. Many of these rejections, of course, come with no comments. But when they do come with comments, it sometimes seems to me that the actual comments are basically consistent with an R&R. They say, "a few minor suggestions," or some such thing, not, "there were several serious problems." Often these reports don't say anything specific about what they recommend the editor do—that material usually goes straight to the editor—but one report I recently got was explicit that the referee thought the paper should be R&R-ed. The editor, of course, rejected the paper.
And it seems to me that many of my friends have had the same experience. At least, the ones I've discussed this with. Although this is so unscientific that it's of basically no value whatsoever. Probably shouldn't have mentioned it.
But I have gotten the sense that, over the past ten years or so, space in the journals has gotten increasingly scarce—witness Nous and PPR's annual six-month submission hiatus—and that this makes editors increasingly reluctant to deploy the R&R, and to reach straight for the "reject" button instead.
And that's too bad. I like R&Rs, and not just because it's not a full-on rejection. I like hearing that the editor believes in the paper enough to give it another shot. I like getting real feedback from an editor who isn't sending it along just in case I'll find it helpful, but who actually believes that the suggestions will make the paper better. And I like being in a position to discuss and possibly negotiate the proposed changes. I think there's legitimate value in the R&R, and it makes me sad to see it go. If, indeed, it is going. Which, maybe it's not.
Does that seem right? What am I missing?