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Recently it happened to me twice that I had a paper which was under review for more than one year (first round) and that all inquiries about the status of the paper went unanswered by the handling editors. Both cases were reputable mathematics journals but not among the very top journals (not the Annals or similar).

Is it reasonable to withdraw the submitted paper in this situation and to submit it to another journal? What is a reasonable waiting time in such a situation, i.e. very long time under review (more than a year) together with an editor who does not respond at all to inquiries on the status?

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    If the handling editor does not reply to polite inquiries, I would not call it a reputable journal. I say this based on long experience as an author and more recently as an associate editor of an applied math journal. I've never ignored such inquiries or had mine ignored. – David Ketcheson Nov 30 '18 at 12:54
  • I've had this happen to me three times recently; two of them still going on. One under an editor I know in person, and eventually got published after being with the journal for over a year and a half; this paper had also been desk rejected after a few months with another journal when the editor couldn't find a reviewer. One has gone through a first round of review and revision and now I'm waiting for the response and final decisions. The other I haven't even received a single review for after more than a year, though the editor has responded saying they've had issues finding a reviewer. – zibadawa timmy Nov 30 '18 at 13:24
  • Which is to say I totally empathize with the ludicrous levels of frustration and disruption to your research this causes, but I'm afraid I don't have much in the way of solution. Other than to maybe wish more editors were more like the one that had desk rejected the paper after a few months of being unable to find a reviewer. – zibadawa timmy Nov 30 '18 at 13:30
  • @DavidKetcheson I do not want to name them here, but both of these journals are well established journals with a long tradition – Christian Nov 30 '18 at 14:10
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    Just withdraw if you want. It's your manuscript and you are free to change your mind as your circumstances require. The process is mostly automated, everyone will be notified that no further review is needed and thanked for their time. – A Simple Algorithm Nov 30 '18 at 17:51
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There can be multiple reasons for lengthy review process.
1) Your work is very novel and its hard to find a reviewer.
2) You submitted your article to a journal who's scope is not fully relevant to your research area. According to my experience this is one of the major reason.
3) The ignorance of handling editor.
First make your own assessment if your work is very novel or if you have submitted to a journal who's scope is not fully relevant to your research area in both cases you may expect a much longer review process.
if its not the case 1) and 2), then Check the average time of first decision for recently published article, and contact handling editor after passage of average expected time. If Editor don't reply for another extra 25%~30% of average time, then write a withdraw letter and mention the unexpected delay as a reason for withdrawal to EiC.

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Withdraw the paper(s) and send to a better journal.

Its is clear from your description "(...)under review for more than one year (first round) and (...) inquiries about the status of the paper went unanswered(...)" that you're not dealing with a reputable journal.

Reassess your evaluation criteria and aim higher.

Good luck!

  • Since this is pure mathematics, I am not particularly surprised about the very long time of the review process but by the fact that we are not receiving any answer to our enquiries. – Christian Nov 30 '18 at 16:04
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    @Christian Exactly. If they're not answering inquiries, they're not professional. I am sure there are better venues in your field for your paper(s). – Scientist Nov 30 '18 at 16:06

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