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If your paper is extraordinarily long, then I think you have to suck it up.

But if it's of normal length, then the reviewer is clearly mistaken: they do *not* have the time to review this paper, and should not continue to insist on doing so.

As for what the reader should do... well, I don't know. If you need the publication, or really want it to have a chance to appear in this journal, then I guess you should wait a few more weeks. And if you don't, then withdraw it, citing the over-long time to review.

In any case, the next time the reader contacts the editor, it might be worth including a list of potential referees, in case they're struggling to find one. Or, *hint* *hint* in case they need to replace one.

Incidentally, has anyone ever written to request that a new referee be found, since the current one's review is so long overdue? Sort of along the lines of a conditional withdrawal: I'd like to withdraw my paper, unless you're willing to find a new referee, because this one clearly doesn't have the time to be refereeing this paper.


My experience is that many journals will not work with authors or even respond to emails. What early career people need to figure out is which journals work for them and which journals don't. I think this depends on what you publish on, the opinions and views of the current editors, and the referee pools--some journals can review your work quickly, because they know good qualified referees in your area. It takes a while to learn what works for you. Also, some journals are just poorly run, uncommunicative, and basically all around unprofessional, including some supposedly "top journals." As for what you can do in your current case, unfortunately, the answer is probably, "not much." You can be patient and wait or you can threaten to withdraw. If the journal already has a positive review in on your paper or the editor thinks it's good, then the withdraw threat might get you some traction. However, philosophy is a massively overcrowded field and for the most part you have very little power over anything. From my experience, long review times and delays are pretty normal.

Overseas TT

Here's my very conservative 5 cents: I never withdrew a single paper in my life, even after obnoxiously long waiting times. Moreover, I only inquired about the status of a paper twice. (In the one case because it was a very simple 3-page long response piece that was under review for over 8 months - good call, the journal in fact "lost" my submission. In the other case it was with a journal that I constantly have technical issues with and whose e-mails I expected to get lost in the ether - again, this proved to be a good call since they apparently rejected my paper months before I inquired.)

My reason for generally being so conservative is that I think referees are likelier to reject papers if they are rushed. In my experience, the average referee is superficial, inattentive and impatient (sorry, present company excluded, etc.). So, pressing a referee to finish overdue reviews is likely to result in a referee report that is even more like that - rushed, cranky, inattentive etc. Those qualities rarely bode well for acceptance.

My strategy often did pay off; I have several papers in top-10 (and even in top-5) journals that took an excessively long amount of time to get through the referees, and in retrospect I'm glad I was patient with them. I understand that some junior scholars need publications quickly. To them, I'd basically give Marcus's oft-repeated advice to overproduce. If you have 5 or more papers making the rounds at every single time, one of them getting stuck somewhere for a while is unlikely to make that much difference for your career. In short, diversify the risks and leave the editor alone (barring extreme cases).

(To be clear: sitting on a paper for months and months is very uncool. My advice is solely from a prudential perspective.)


I have told this story before. But I will tell it again, as it might be helpful for some young philosophers who want to learn how the system works at least sometimes. To be clear, I don't have great grounds to think that my situation represents something more general. However, the general sense I get from being around philosophy is that almost everywhere you go has prestige and seniority bias, and junior scholars and non prestigious philosophers just have to learn to make the best of it.

Long review times are incredibly common (and for everyone, not just junior people) and there is very little you can do about it. I agree with others that the best thing is probably to learn what journals have better track records for your situation. Pressuring an editor might help, but it seems just as likely to piss him/her off and with an oversupply of papers it is very easy for editors to decide to reject on the flimsiest of reasons.

My story:

I submit a paper to a journal.

After 7 months, I write and ask what is going on with the paper. I am told that , "Sorry we forgot to send it out because we are switching editing systems. We will send it out now."

I wait another 5 months and send another letter to the editor. The editor wrote back that one review was in and they are waiting for the other reviewer who is taking a long time but that this other reviewer should be almost done.

I wait 3 more months and send another note to the editor. A month goes by and I get no reply. I send another email. This time two weeks go by and I am beyond frustrated.

I go to my PhD adviser who is a fairly big name in the relevant field. My adviser had also published in this journal in the recent past. I asked if he would send a note on my behalf. He sends it off the next morning, it says, "My student has been waiting quite some time for a response and would really appreciate your communication on this issue."

5 hours after my adviser sent off the email, I get a response from the editor apologizing for the delay and offering a revise and resubmit. For various reasons, I strongly suspect the second review was written by the editor.

That same day I get another email from a different editor (I think this one was kind of second in command) and it was a response to the email I had sent two weeks earlier. The email said, I AM NOT KIDDING, "We have no record of your submission so it seems you will have to restart the process."

The paper was indeed published after my RandR, by the way.

Not Going to Alienate Editors

Interesting perspective, Overseas TT. I don't buy the rationale for being so conservative, though. This thread at Leiter (https://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2014/03/are-journals-more-likely-to-reject-an-article-after-a-status-inquiry-from-the-author.html) includes some valuable insights. Referees are largely inscrutable. Even if it were true that a rushed referee is more likely to be sloppy, that doesn't make them more likely to reject. There are many sloppy positive verdicts. The reason it *seems* like it makes them more likely to reject is because, as some point out in that thread, rejection is overwhelmingly likely in the first place. I tend to think it's perfectly reasonable to inquire as soon as a journal's self-imposed deadline (or advertised time window for initial verdict) has passed, as long as you do so very politely and ideally provide some decent reason for being eager to know (e.g. you're on the market, you have a review coming up). The burden is on the editors to make sure the job is done well. We all realize it's hard, but if a journal boasts that most submissions receive a first decision within X weeks, authors should be allowed to ask after X weeks and change. If no one puts pressure on journals to do a better job, they'll never have enough of an incentive to do a better job. They must understand that one reason we're shifting to other, more efficient journals is that they're more efficient. FWIW, I'm impressed you were patient enough to wait EIGHT months to inquire about a three-page reply! Honestly, at almost every journal authors should be allowed to send a polite inquiry 12 weeks from submission. They may have to wait longer, but at least they should be informed. It takes a few hours to review a manuscript. If you can't commit to doing it within a week or two, decline and suggest other reviewers. If you commit, do it. No excuse.

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