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I have submitted a paper to a journal 2 and a half months ago. Its status remains "With editor". From your experience, is this normal? If not, how should I deal with that?

  • This question is probably relevant here: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/5793/… – superuser0 Jul 22 '13 at 19:19
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    I'll add that anecdotical “answer” here: even in a given field, it depends on the journal, the editor, and the circumstances. My fastest submission-to-online-publication time (for a peer-reviewed journal) was 24 days, and my slowest was 11 months… – F'x Jul 22 '13 at 20:09
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    Don't forget it is summer vacation time, it can be quite difficult to find suitable reviewers. But you can always ping the editor. – Bitwise Jul 23 '13 at 0:16
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One of my papers took well over two years to get published, thanks mostly to two review periods lasting around 10 months (IIRC). So 2 1/2 months is not that outlandish.

But it does not hurt to ask politely about the status of your paper! It may be well down on someone's list of things to do, and a polite reminder that you are interested in its fate may be all that's needed to bump it up near the top. Presumably, if you ask, the editor will give some indication as to approximately when reviews might be ready, and then you'll know when to send another polite reminder if nothing has happened.

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Expectation of review time and time taken for the editorial decision vary widely depending on the field.

In my own field, chemistry, 2.5 months is about the time when people would start to send an email to the editor and ask about the status of the manuscript. A review of the reviewing process for Angewandte Chemie, one of the field’s flagship journals, shows a median “submission to editorial decision” time of 5 weeks, with an average of 6.8 weeks. I recommend this paper, because it's full of statistics, and contains many links to data and reviews for other journals in various fields:

How Long is the Peer Review Process for Journal Manuscripts? A Case Study on Angewandte Chemie International Edition
Lutz Bornmann and Hans-Dieter Daniel
Chimia 2010, 64, 72–77

You can find plenty of similar statistics for journals in various fields, by a simple web search: biomedicine, medicine, statistics, philosophy… This confirms my initial point that review times (and thus author expectations) vary widely on your field and the specific journal: the average review time in the Journal of Philosophy is 12.6… months!


Edit: oh, and I have to disagree with your comment below Peter’s answer… “with editor” most often includes the time spent in review. I would say always, because it has never been any different in my experience. Many web submission interfaces actually don't allow you to know the internal changes of status between the editor and the reviewers (apart from the American Physical Society system, where you can track every correspondence the editor and reviewers have exchange)

  • Thanks for your helpful answer. Usually, I get first "with editor" and then "under review". – user7837 Jul 22 '13 at 20:14
  • I have only ever submitted one paper, but it is currently "under review", after being "with editor" for less than a week. – Alex Becker Jul 23 '13 at 0:08
  • @AlexBecker there are plenty of different web submission software out there… some of those don't allow you to see the difference between “with editor” and ”with reviewers”, and some do – F'x Jul 23 '13 at 6:51
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The time frame you mention sounds long to me. But having said that, there can be several reasons why this is the case. I assume that the journal you have submitted to uses an electronic submission system?

Reasons can be:

  • The journal is crowded with papers
  • The editor(s) has/ve difficulties finding reviewers for the paper
  • The time frame is "normal" for the journal, "with editor" includes review time.

I suggest you try to figure out how long the time from submission to accept/reject (turnaround time) is for the particular journal you submitted to. If it is possible to see more details that would be good but knowing the average turnaround time allows you to assess if 2.5 months is long even for this journal.

Since I edit a journal I can mention our time frames as an example:

  • Choice of editor 10 days
  • Choice of associate editor 10 days
  • Chose reviewers 3 weeks
  • Reviews 3 weeks
  • Editor decision 3 weeks
  • Revision 3-6 weeks
  • Editor evaluation 3 weeks.

This puts the theoretical turnaround at 18-21 weeks (around 5 moths). What usually makes significant delays are reviewers not returning reviews on time and authors not providing revisions on time. But the bottom line is that for me 2.5 months is long and if you suspect your paper is held up too long you should contact the editor.

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    From my editorial experience, finding reviewers for highly specialized topics may take a longer time. It once took me more than three months once to send 15 or so invitations in order to find 2 or 3 reviewers... and I have to give them 2 months to complete their reviews, too. – StasK Jul 22 '13 at 19:42
  • Thanks, Peter and Damien. Unfortunately, I cannot find out the turnaround time of the journal. Being a Springer journal, I doubt that "with editor" includes review time. – user7837 Jul 22 '13 at 19:45
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The turnaround time for a paper submitted to a journal is dependent on the journal and the time it takes to have for the editor to receive the feedback from the reviewers and for them to review the reviews. I have had to wait 5 months for feedback, some have to wait far longer.

Have you read what the turnaround time should be? This information is usually available on the journal's author information website.

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