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12/04/2023

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Frustrated Jr

As a new PhD this has been a nightmare. This year I waited 6 months at one journal for a desk rejection and six months more at another (same paper) for rejection with minimally helpful comments, meaning that paper was under review all year and still needs to be sent out again (with likely the same result). All told this year, 3 papers under review for no less than 6 months before initial response, even after follow-up.

How can junior scholars hope to build their portfolio in these conditions (before their degree gets stale)??

Prof L

this website can be helpful ... https://apasurvey.philx.org/
Look especially at recent data, since sometimes things change at the editorial level and these review times depend upon the editor.

As a principle, I never submitted to anything with an average review time of longer than 2-3 months when early on the tenure track.

If a paper is at a journal for 15 months, that means that there is something wrong with its editorial practices, not just with its referees.

I'm sorry people are dealing with this. It is a very frustrating problem.

Diane

At one journal it has been 1.5 years now since the first submission. I saw changes of status several times, from awaiting reports back to revievers assigned. I emailed the editors, no answer but once more status change.

Prof L

ps. that website relies on crowd-sourced data and some of the data is old. If you have some recent experiences, maybe be a mensch and fill out a report or two.

The Real SLAC Prof

Yes, I’ve noticed a bigger problem recently as well, although I don’t know how widespread it is. I have also experienced well functioning journals.

As a mid career person, I will reach out to the editors when I experience behavior that I judge to be especially egregious and ask if this is typical for the journal. For example, I recently reached out to a highly ranked journal that held on to a paper for 5 months and desk rejected it without comments. To me, this shows a serious problem with the management of the journal and can’t be scapegoated onto referees.

If they blow me off or give a non-answer I won’t submit to them again or labor for them as a referee. I don’t know how effective this is, but I do think that we, collectively, need to identify and avoid broken journals. If editors can put a name and an email complaint to someone who feels like they were treated poorly, especially if it is a name of a person who they regularly call on for volunteer work, maybe they will start looking more closely at what might be going on internally.

Michel

I have not noticed this with my own submissions, no. I usually submit to journals I know have a reasonable turnaround time and avoid those that don't. (Though I did give it a go at a couple highly ranked ones known to take forever and, sure enough, they took forever.)

What is wrong?

I have noticed this too. A journal that always gave me a decision within 3 months has now taken 7 months to get decisions (and often with only one referee report).

This year I have also started doing some editorial work myself. I have to send more than 15 referee invitations to secure one report. Quite often people who agree never submit their report and stop answering emails.

Professors rarely agree to referee papers, almost always I have to rely on postdocs or PhD students.

philosophy bashing

To top off the long review periods stated above, let me share that I had a 24 month period between submission and acceptance recently, and this at one of the top journals, which is absurd.

What I also find absurd, is that with philosophy journals I've heard of (and have myself had) papers being accepted on the basis of a single (!) reviewer (the 24 month paper is actually one of them). I think on the whole, the publication process in philosophy is terribly broken: it's random, unprofessional, opaque, and the prestige of many journals is based purely on their historical track record rather than on any sort of recent evaluation.

I am saying this especially in comparison with other disciplines that I am somewhat familiar with, such as AI, where conference papers (which are the main type of publications there) usually have at least four reviewers, a meta-reviewer, have short-term reviewing deadlines, clear reviewing criteria, and are more and more moving towards an open review system (so that the reviews and rebuttals are available after publication). I suspect that others who publish in other disciplines can confirm that philosophy is in particularly bad shape when it comes to publishing.

Frustrated

Yes, I've also suddenly had far worse delays this year than any other and it has been very frustrating because I am submitting my tenure dossier early next year. One elite journal took 9 months to desk reject a paper. Multiple email inquiries from me finally revealed that the general editor had been the main problem, taking six months to do their first quick glance at the paper before passing it on to Associate Editors. Anyone who acts like this should not be a general editor.

In a second instance, I could see in the editorial system of a specialist journal that the reports for my R&R had been submitted and yet the general editor took five months to review those reports and accept the paper. In the end this didn't hurt me because the paper was accepted before my tenure submission deadline. However, at the time I didn't know if the R&R report would recommend accept or reject and it was very frustrating to think that if the paper was rejected the delay would rob me of an opportunity to get it reviewed elsewhere before the tenure deadline.

Anyway, this is my anecdotal experience. I have no idea whether this reflects a broader problem this year with philosophy journals.

Some data

Yes, I seem to have especially long review times from last year to this year too. Experienced this with multiple journals.

Chris

I haven't submitted anything to a journal myself in the past year, but from the reviewer side, I can say that I've been declining a lot more requests simply because I've been getting a lot more requests. There are many possible explanations for the latter, of course... but could a sheer increase in the number of journal submissions, without a corresponding increase in the number of reviewers, be part of the problem?

a ref

philosophy bashing
Just because you receive just one report from a journal, it does not follow that the paper was only reviewed by one referee. Editors withhold reviews for a variety of reasons - they may not be helpful to the author, for example. Long review times are a problem. I do not get it. I have refereed 200 papers now - most often I complete the review within a few days of agreeing to referee it (at most 2 weeks). What others are doing with them, I cannot even guess. I tend now to do most of my reviewing for philosophy of science journals - Phil Sci, Synthese, BJPS, SHPS. I have to say, though, I hate seeing the same paper show up almost unchanged at one journal after another - I generally only agree to referee a paper once.

academic migrant

Just want to share this quote from something I read

"Being ignored is a common enough type of insult. In organizations, it takes the form of having one's requests, memos, and reports disregarded, or, more commonly, being kept waiting...it is clear that what is experienced as insulting is not the actual wasting of time but the presumption that their time has a low value compared to someone else's."

https://academic.oup.com/book/3435/chapter/144574543#

Assc prof

One of the inefficiencies in the peer review process is not just the limited supply of good, reliable referees, but editors' limited ability in identifying them. I'll use my own case as an illustration.

I've refereed maybe 20 times total since grad school, and I'm tenured now. I think I've only turned down one request, and it was because I'd already rejected the paper at another journal. I have strong reason to think I'm a good referee. First, I've never taken more than a month, and my median time is under 10 days. Second, more than half the time the editor has sent a personal and non-automatic email thanking me for the detailed and helpful reports. And yet I haven't been asked to review *anything* in two years. I'm sure there are others like me. I'm not sure what journals can do to learn about the pool of capable reviewers who are willing to chip in, but rarely asked.

SN

I've been waiting for a decision from a well respected specialty journal for 8 months. I emailed the editor for an update a few weeks ago, and she told me that the paper had been with a reviewer for a while, but then the reviewer recused himself; so, she had to find a different reviewer, which took time. (I do not know why a reviewer would recuse himself.) So, in this case, it seems like the editor is having a hard time finding qualified people who are willing to review papers in a timely fashion.

I'd also like to echo Assc prof's comment above. I've published a few papers in respected journals, but I have not been asked to review a paper in well over a year, perhaps two. I was asked a few times, years ago, and I always returned my review within a month, with extensive comments. Given the difficulty that editors seem to have finding reviewers, it seems strange that I haven't received more requests.

we can referee

SN and others mention it being strange that they are not receiving more requests. This same issue came up in a similar thread a year or two ago, and some editors showed up in the comments and invited willing folks to send them emails. I did this and it resulted in me doing some additional referee work. Maybe we should do that again sometime?

whatever

I would love to referee more papers. Who should I tell?

ChatReferee

I have said this before, but I'll repeat it: someone with some moderate coding chops should be able to write a program which takes a potential submission, scrapes some keywords and citations out of it, and then uses philpapers to recommend referees...

Ditto

Agreed - I rarely get asked to review (one or two a year, max), despite being established mid-career with several books (good presses, including OUP) and numerous articles (good, if not top-10 journals). The crisis in finding referees is at odds with the number of willing, un-invited referees.

eddy

ChatReferee
I was an content editor for PLOSOne (there are about 5000 editors, so don't be too impressed). They have an elaborate system that generates a huge list of referees ... perhaps 100. And you just prioritize the people on the list, and then the system invites them in sequence until enough people respond positively. So, it can be done.

T

I second the comments above. I've also had an unusually long waiting time this year, while at the same time being asked to referee much less than in the recent past, despite getting tenured and having more and more publications and friends taking up (associate) editorships...

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