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I have submitted an article for a journal in which it was stated that the review time was from 80 to 120 days, that is approximately 4 months at most. The submission of my article was approximately 13 months ago and I did not get any answer in the allotted time they mentioned. I sent an email to the editor after 8 months and I was told that the review process has suffered a delay, but that they soon will fix that issue.

I waited until September and sent another email and again I got another reply of an apology and nothing more. I believe that it has passed too much time, until now it is almost like one year, so I do not what to do.

Would there be any problem if I submit my article to another journal or should I send another email to the editor of this journal? Or rather just wait until I get a response?

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    Note that if you decide to submit elsewhere (which is your good right) you still need to first withdraw from this journal. This bad experience does not give you a card blanche to double-dip. – xLeitix Nov 26 '18 at 14:07
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    It may help to get in touch with the editor-in-chief. Individual editors occasionally have a hard time finding willing reviewers. And if the volunteer reviewer gets wrapped up in their real life duties (leading to a delay), the bar for looking for alternate reviewers is relatively high. Been there. Not pleasant for anyone involved. – Jyrki Lahtonen Nov 27 '18 at 4:44
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It seems like a long time by any standard. Contact them. You can give them a date by which you will formally withdraw your article from consideration. Maybe a couple of weeks. If they don't jump you can submit elsewhere without worry.

The final nudge is just a courtesy. You could actually just inform them that you are withdrawing for submission elsewhere. But if the journal is reputable it might be worth the courtesy.

  • There is a vague possibility that something unethical is going on - purposeful delays in order to trump a publication. Though I hope not... – Spark Nov 26 '18 at 3:43
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    @YairZick I would assume that if the paper is about some critical finding. If not, it is more likely that reviewers are slow or editors have a problem finding reviewers. Generally, I personally found that reviewers have become slower, less motivated and less reliable over the last decade and half, probably because of the spate of review requests while submission quality and originality has decreased on average (from my personal observation). – Captain Emacs Nov 26 '18 at 9:52
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    Maybe important to emphasize that you indeed need to withdraw first before submitting elsewhere. I am not sure if the OP is aware of that based on their original phrasing. – xLeitix Nov 26 '18 at 14:06
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I agree with @Buffy's answer. A polite letter to the editors asking for clarification would be good. If you or a colleague know anyone on the editorial board - contact them. I had a case where a paper was sitting idle for close to a year after an accept with minor revisions because of a miscommunication between the reviewers and the editor in charge.

Another point to consider: perhaps I am being a bit paranoid, but if your paper was sitting there for a very long time and has not been published, it may be a good idea to have a version of it on ArXiv or some other relevant open repository. This serves the purpose of timestamping your publication.

There are (thankfully rare) horror stories of unscrupulous reviewers purposely delaying decisions in order to get the results themselves. If your review is taking so long and results in your field take a long time to come by (say, experiments need to be run), this may be a cause for concern.

Also seriously consider whether this journal is worth submitting to in the future. Journals should not be rewarded for this kind of behavior.

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    Submitting to the journal has already "timestamped" the work. – David Richerby Nov 26 '18 at 13:15
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    @DavidRicherby: ... but not if the paper is rejected. – Oleg Lobachev Nov 26 '18 at 16:59
  • @OlegLobachev Even if the paper is rejected, you can still ask the journal's editor to vouch for the fact that you submitted it. In reality, it seems very unlikely that one would need to prove that a paper existed in some specific date, anyway. – David Richerby Nov 26 '18 at 17:00
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    Maybe, but if another person just happens to release similar results, it may take a really long time to get the editor to move on this. They may even be reluctant to get into this mess altogether as it may paint them and their editorial process as unethical/incompetent. Why not just go for an independent, free, open format that’s indisputable and has zero hassle? – Spark Nov 27 '18 at 0:36
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Write to the editor with pointed questions. How many reviewers have been invited? How many agreed/declined? When are the review due dates?

Without knowing the answers to these questions, deciding whether to wait or to withdraw and resubmit is just a crapshoot. With the answers, it's possible to make a much more informed decision about whether the reviewers are likely to finish their reviews.

If the editors refuse to answer, you can still guess if the delay is because of them or because of the reviewers based on how long it takes to answer your question. If they take a long time to answer, I'd guess that the delay is because of them, in which case I'd be more inclined to withdraw and submit elsewhere.

  • Good advice here, get the editor to state what has happened & is happening... – Solar Mike Nov 26 '18 at 5:10
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Three times in my (pretty long) career editors took an outrageously long time (more than a year) to decide on a submission. I was confident that the papers were correct and appropriate for those journals, so did not want to withdraw them and resubmit elsewhere. Eventually my frequent mail to the editors (snail and later e-) led to acceptance in each case. In at least one of them I think the editor gave up on nagging the referees and checked the paper herself.

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Any credible and efficiently managed journal should be able to complete the review process and reach a decision in 6-8 weeks. Any period beyond that is usually the fault of Editors and Co-Editors who simply accept the prestige of the title but pay little attention to their duties. The excuse is always that they are volunteers and have other responsibilities. In my view, why accept an editorship if you will be unable to devote sufficient time to the tasks of being an editor. Some of the fault also lies with the publishers who don't have systems in place in their electronic process to flag submissions for which reviews are missing within a given time period. The way I deal with lengthy reviews is to first contact the editor for an update after 8 weeks has elapsed. If the response is much more than a simple "we are still waiting for reviews", and it appears that some attempt will be made to get the reviews, I allow another 4 weeks at the most. Beyond that, I either withdraw the paper and offer it elsewhere or I offer it elsewhere without withdrawal. In both scenarios, as far as I am concerned, the journal to which the paper was sent to first has lost exclusive rights to my submission. Thereafter, whichever journal comes back first with an acceptance is the journal that will be given the copyright to publish.

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