Let's say I'm handling a paper which has been reviewed, but the reviews are incomplete. For example:

  • The journal needs N reviews as a policy and I only have N-1 reviews.
  • The journal needs at least one reviewer who isn't a suggested reviewer, and all the reviews so far have been by suggested reviewers.
  • The reviewer said they weren't confident about [section] in the paper, and I need to invite another reviewer with expertise in [section].

However, I've yet to start looking for these missing reviews. If I do so, the timeline will be like handling a manuscript from scratch: I have to invite reviewers, wait for them to accept, invite others if they decline, and so on. Alternatively, I can make a revise decision now and get the missing reviews when the manuscript is resubmitted.

From the author's perspective, which is preferable?

  • Hmmm. You've change the question fundamentally. My answer may no longer be valid.
    – Buffy
    Feb 19, 2019 at 1:41
  • It's an awkward situation, and one which it would be best not to find oneself in. If reviews are going to take an exceptionally long time it may be polite to tell the authors about this. However, if you are going to request more reviews I do not think you can send the paper back. Think about it from the authors' perspective: You spend valuable time on revisions, resubmit, and then get asked for a load of new changes that were never mentioned the first time. That's just wasting everybody's time.
    – Flyto
    Feb 19, 2019 at 9:46
  • Just inform the author that you need more time.
    – Alchimista
    Feb 19, 2019 at 12:56

2 Answers 2


The author might well like to get on with it, but it might not be fair to them. I'm depending on your analysis that the reviews you have are poor as the deciding factor. Revising based on poor advice seems to be counterproductive for the author, but s/he has no information about how much you trust the advice they have been given.

If your reviews to date were reliable, I'd probably suggest going ahead, but under all of these conditions, it is probably better to wait.

I once went through a series of revisions with an editor who didn't know me or trust me (I was new). After several rounds of revision, with different reviewers, the issue in question wound up back where I'd started. It was very frustrating.

It is best for the author if you give them a task based on information that you can trust.

Added after the question was changed.

Suppose you get the author started on revisions, but when the last review finally arrives it changes things fundamentally? Now what? I think the author will have a valid complaint. I think you editor rules are there for a reason. It is probably a mistake to subvert them in the name of "efficiency" that may be misplaced.

  • That's a good point, deleting the bullet point with "reviews are poor quality" since I clearly can't ask the author to make revisions based on poor quality reviews.
    – Allure
    Feb 19, 2019 at 1:40
  • Re your edit: if I get the author started on revisions, I wouldn't be inviting new reviewers, until the revision is submitted.
    – Allure
    Feb 19, 2019 at 1:46
  • If you trust the reviewers and the reviews then that would seem fine, to me at least. But if they are problematic? ...
    – Buffy
    Feb 19, 2019 at 1:49

If you are going to enforce the "having another review", than you need to hold the manuscript, go get the review and not have the authors do an edit. It will disrupt things too much if they revise from what they wanted and A disagreed with, if C likes it (maybe they stand their ground then). Or if there is some other clash, synthesis of changes needed, etc. Don't send it to them early and then have the kerfuffle later...and definitely don't spring it as a surprise.

You might send them a note saying that you need a little more time (at least then it is not in a black hole and they are less likely to pull the paper).

If at all possible, I would read the paper yourself and see if you can just pass it without the need for the extra review. At least to the point of getting it back to the authors. But when you read it, you have to make a judgment call if you feel OK about it. And yes, I realize this might be "breaking a rule" from your three bulleted scenarios. But many journals and editors are capable of inserting a little judgment.

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