Is the backlog of a journal correlated to the difficulty of submission (with acceptance) to a journal?

I would imagine that a journal with high backlog could be more selective in publishing journals (if they have so many journals to choose from).

At least in mathematics, this seems anecdotally true. For instance, Annals of Mathematics has one of the largest backlogs (and is also notoriously among the more selective of math journals).

On the other hand, I suppose it could be possible that backlog is merely a measure of how slow or fast the journal is, and could have nothing to do with difficulty of getting accepted submission.

  • We must have a different definition of backlog. For me, "backlog" means how many already accepted articles they have that should appear in print. This may be correlated with, but is different from the time between submission and acceptance. What is backlog for you? – Federico Poloni Jan 1 '18 at 16:53
  • Also, we must have a different definition of "anecdotally true". It seems like on that pdf you linked there is a ton of data to check whatever correlation you want to check. – Federico Poloni Jan 1 '18 at 16:54

The backlog of papers refers to those in the pipeline already accepted for publication. If there is a bigger backlog, it can mean a longer wait before it actually is published after being accepted for publication. There would be only a small correlation, if any, between that and the "difficulty of submission"; do you really mean difficulty of getting a paper accepted for publication?

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  • Yeah I mean difficulty getting accepted. – yoyostein Dec 30 '17 at 3:36

Depends on what you mean by "backlog". If you mean papers accepted but not yet published, then it's probably not more difficult getting accepted, because it's the publisher (not the editors who're making the decision) that's backlogged.

On the other hand if by "backlog" you mean submitted papers without a decision, then it's possible that it will be more difficult getting accepted. It indicates that the journal is currently receiving many more submissions than it needs, and it means they can be more selective. This is when an editor might incline towards rejecting a paper even though the reviewers recommend revision.

Having said that I'll add that if a journal is consistently receiving more papers than it needs, and those papers otherwise meet their quality standards (i.e. the only reason they are rejected is because the journal has too many papers), the journal is likely to increase its number of issues in the future.

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