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Assistant Professor

The APA webinar on How to Publish in Journals addressed this issue in interesting ways. There Jennifer Lackey said that you should not let a paper sit an "unreasonably long time" and as an author you are "owed a response" and should feel empowered to reach out to editors. I encourage people to watch her statements directly, because she offers some thoughtful reflections on timeline and communications (notably other panelists pushed back and a lot lies in how people define what is a reasonable or unreasonable length of time a paper sits with a journal for review).

Personally I think it is appropriate to respectfully reach out to editors for a status update if you have no information after several months. I have had good experiences doing this myself, and have received information about where the paper is in the review process or what the hurdles are (i.e. finding a second reviewer) and it has not led to a hasty decision.

The OP's situation is complicated because they have reached out and they get acknowledged but they don't get more information. I would consider withdrawing the submission and email one last time to notify the journal that you plan to send your paper out elsewhere after September 1st (or some such date) if it is not currently under review and you don't hear back before then - you could put the editor in chief on the email to notify them as well and they can see the thread of the prior responses without follow up if you reply to the last email from the managing editor when doing so. This isn't intended a threat, it is just being respectful of your time and theirs. If they have put in the time to review your paper and notify you of this then you can keep your paper with the current journal - but they need to update you.

If, however, you don't have another journal to send it to then I wouldn't keep pushing and would just wait, as frustrating as it is.


I only have one small thought at least in response to the first question: when both (if there are two) reviewers agree that my paper should be rejected, I have usually gotten a fairly quick response from the editor as well (which makes sense -- in that case they most likely only need to press a button). But I have had cases of papers where the reviewers do not entirely agree, or both recommend R&R but also raised concerns, and the editor then made a decision based on reading the paper themselves. So that is at least one possible explanation why there is a significant delay after the reviews are completed. It's not the only possible explanation, and even if that is what is going on, the paper may still be rejected, of course...


After 3.5 months, I emailed a journal about the status of a paper. I was told a week later that the reviewers had disagreed (one accept, one reject) so a third reviewer was being sought. They found a third reviewer a week later and told me the review would be expedited, which meant a one month return. Three months later the journal told me the third reviewer had given the paper a thumbs down, so they had to reject it. I don't know if I would have been told anything until the end if I hadn't emailed. Anyway, just one person's experience.


Regarding timelines, a good rule of thumb is the journal's own timeline. If the journal says on their website that they try to provide initial verdicts within (say) two months, and its been two months, I think it is appropriate to email them. If their website says that the average time for initial verdict is 82 days; then I think its alright to email them at 83 days. I normally email them around 6 months if I haven't heard anything; coworkers sometimes do 3 months.

Regarding outcomes, I have received all of them: immediate acceptance, immediate rejection, immediate revise and resubmit, being told to wait for the editor, being told to wait for a reviewer, and, of course, nothing at all. My guess, from my experience, is that emailing them only speeds up the process when someone in the process has made a mistake or is dragging their feet.

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