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03/28/2023

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Michael Walschots

Indeed I think it depends on the journal, and what they have listed on their website as their average review times. If they don't have anything listed (which in itself can be a bad sign), I'd expect 6 months. But otherwise - I'd say if a journal say they usually try to have the paper refereed within, say, 6 weeks, then wait until 8 weeks or so to write. My personal view, however, is that after 3 months you're entitled to write and (politely) ask for an update on the status of your paper. Speaking from experience, this can be important to do because some journals might not have even found enough referees for your paper at that point - if that's the case, it's important to know and (maybe) withdraw and submit elsewhere, if you think doing so is worth it.

Michel

IMO, double the average turnaround time.

Andrew

Agree with Michel.
Double the average turn around time.

not OP

If the journal responds to your first inquiry that they are still waiting for one report, how long do you wait before inquiring again? And what do you do if the journal stops responding?

Elizabeth

Id probably want to ask around the 3m mark but likely wait until about 4m.

Possibly sooner or later if I’ve reviewed for them before and I know the turnaround time they request from reviewers.

As it happens, I’ve only ever inquired twice. Once I got no reply and the review ended up taking 6m. The other time I got a helpful update and the review came through a few weeks later. Maybe I’m lucky but I’ve only ever had those two 5+ months wait times. Everything else has been 1-3m.

Anon

Check in at 3 months. Waiting *half a year* is way too long. No harm comes from checking in, and you potentially avoid harms (e.g. if something is off with the submission).

Andrey

I believe that the best advice on these matters comes from Belcher’s ‘Writing your journal article in 12 weeks. A guide to academic publishing success’:

“Once your article has been with a journal for three months, you should start sending regular e-mails to the editor of the journal, politely inquiring about the status of your article. Editors know that authors deserve a timely decision, and they accept that it is your right to be persistent when they have exceeded three months.
Generally, it is not the editors’ fault that they have been unable to give a decision, but the recalcitrant reviewers’ fault. The editors cannot move forward until the reviewers have read and responded to your article. In fact, the editors may be as frustrated as you are with the slow review process and can even appreciate a persistent e-mail from you, because it reminds them to send a persistent e-mail to the reviewers asking them to submit their reviews.
In some cases, it is the editors’ fault. They just aren’t on the ball and never actually sent your article to any reviewers. Or the editors have alienated their staff, who are dragging their feet on doing their tasks. Or the editors have resigned, and no one even recorded your initial submission much less sent it for review. Or there is a war going on between the various editors and/or the editorial board and so the review process is at a standstill. Since you cannot know what the real story is, your marker for the viability of the journal’s review process must be the editors’ responsiveness to the e-mail inquiries you start to send. If the editors respond with the information that they are working to extract reviews from the reviewers, that’s a good sign. Just keep waiting. If the editors do not respond to your e-mails, you should make your e-mail inquiries more frequent: once a month starting at the three month mark, once every two weeks starting at the four month mark, once a week starting at the fifth month, and once a day starting in the sixth month (if you still feel like hanging in there). If you are getting no response, the e-mail should never change, it should never escalate in tone, it should be the exact same wording: “I’m just e-mailing to inquire about the status of my article titled such-and-such, which I submitted to your journal such-and-such on such-and-such date.” If you have had interest from other parties (e.g., if someone asked if he or she could include your article in an edited volume), you should include that information in the e-mail.
If a journal is not responding to e-mail inquiries about the status of your article, you are always within your rights to withdraw your article from their consideration. Submission is not a contract, you have not signed over anything to them, and you still own the copyright. Just make sure that you have clearly notified them in writing that you are withdrawing the piece; sending the message both by e-mail and post is a good idea. Generally, however, I recommend withdrawing only if the journal never responded to you or has stopped responding despite repeated inquiries. If the editors regularly respond to your inquiries and say that they are working to get the reviews, stick it out. If you have sent more than four e-mails to various e-mail addresses over the fourth and fifth month of review and have heard nothing, I recommend withdrawing your piece. If you want to be more cautious, that’s fine, but if the editors are not responding into the six month, it’s time to think seriously about moving on.
An additional reason to withdraw an article after five or six months is that, statistically, your chances of getting a positive decision are dwindling. Most peer reviewers take longer to reject an article than to accept it. In a study of peer reviewer types, a scholar identified one as the “procrastinator,” those reviewers who took the longest to review a piece. Such reviewers, the scholar claimed, always had only negative comments, so you can anticipate little reward for hanging in there. Good reviewers take about two to three hours to review an article and return those reviews in an average of four to twenty weeks, depending on discipline.
An interesting new trend among some savvy journals is to ask authors to promise that the editors have exclusive consideration of your article for fourth months. If the editors have not delivered a decision in that period, they allow you automatically to submit the article to another journal. It is one way of lightening the onerous rule against simultaneous or multiple submission.”

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