I am assigned as a reviewer of an article for IEEE TNNLS (computer science), but unfortunately, I would be super busy during the week of the deadline. In fact, I need to submit a paper and also two postdoc applications during the same week.

I'm already trying to do as much as I can before that week, but it'd make things much easier (with better quality) if I can postpone the review at least for two more days. So, I like to know if it looks unprofessional to ask the editor for that extension and whether it'd damage my review performance/reputation in that journal?

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    A two day extension is almost nothing compared to the significant work of finding a new reviewer. I would just ask (in fact I've done so multiple times). They won't put you on a blacklist for such a reasonable request. – Roland Mar 30 '19 at 20:59
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    Yes, you can I have asked an editor to extend the review and he did it, there is no worries. – user103209 Mar 30 '19 at 23:33
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    I never ask. I submit my reviews whenever I have time. – Prof. Santa Claus Mar 31 '19 at 2:17
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    @Prof.SantaClaus I may do that when I become a professor as big as Santa is! :D – Bob Mar 31 '19 at 11:11

Getting a review in two days late for a journal article is pretty common. I wouldn't worry about anything less than being a week late. For conferences, deadlines can be tighter, but 2 days is nothing. Ideally you would let the editor know your review will be a couple of days late, but even if you didn't, it is not the end of the world.


I wouldn't even ask. Just "tell".

Send a short email saying you will send the review a week later (more time than needed, don't want to come back in 2 days again). Don't phrase the email in a manner that requires a response from the editor--tell, don't ask (cut the back and forth chatter).

If the editor wants/needs to pull the paper, he will do so. But it's very unlikely he will. But just let him do what he does.

In addition, I would be practical and do a simple review. I love doing extensive murder board reviews. But you need to concentrate on your own stuff. There is probably an 80-20 rule where you can give 80% of the key improvements with 20% of the text and parsing time. In particular, if you are recommending rejection, I would be economical with your time and not investment much in improvement recommendations.

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    "Ask" will be interpreted as "tell" and is far more polite. – Bob Brown Mar 31 '19 at 2:14
  • @BobBrown: I don't mind asking, but should I also apologize for the inconvenience? ;) – Bob Mar 31 '19 at 2:27
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    @Babak - You can add that sentence in the same formally-ask, but in-reality-tell email. But that's just a politeness gesture. In reality, there is nothing in here to feel apologetic for. :) – 299792458 Mar 31 '19 at 5:35
  • @Babak If you like, but don't make a big deal of it. You are still "telling," after all. The point is to do so politely. – Bob Brown Mar 31 '19 at 13:14

When I ask for an extension, I usually ask for a substantial one, i.e. one week not just 2 days. This way, if I need more than 2 days for some unforeseen reason I don’t have to ask for another extension. Moreover if the editor is really tight she/he can negotiate down to 2 days and everybody is happy.

Dear editor, Due to unforeseen circumstances I can only guarantee submission of my report by[deadline+1 week]. I trust this firm new submission date is acceptable to the Journal.

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    As an editor, I want people to ask for only what they need. – jakebeal Mar 31 '19 at 20:10
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    @jakebeal so do I but I would rather not deal with people asking for a 2-day extension every 2nd day: I'm more interested in a firm deadline than a moving one. – ZeroTheHero Mar 31 '19 at 21:00
  • @jakebeal People know only a subjective probability distribution of the time they need, not a specific value. Which quantile (or other statistic) do you want them to ask? It seems reasonable that if someone expects the review to take 2 days on average, there's still a 1/5 chance that it will take 1 week, and in that case the editor might like them to ask for the week directly. – JiK Apr 1 '19 at 9:23
  • @jakebeal I was also advised, and now practice, asking for approximately max(3days, X*30%) more extra time, rounded to the nearest week, if I estimated I needed X time to finish, to give myself a small buffer and avoid asking twice. So two days are likely to become a week, a week 10 days, and 3 months (very extensive revision, happened once) 4 months. I will, if I can, submit sooner, but I'll also be very happy if I realize I underestimated and can now actually still finish at a reasonable pace rather than forgoing sleep for the last 3 days before the submission. – penelope Apr 1 '19 at 13:14
  • @ZeroTheHero Actually, I'd still prefer to have somebody give me their honest estimate and then bug them again if they don't deliver. At least I know I've got their attention, rather than being shuffled into the "don't have to think about it this week" pile, which is likely to lead to asking for another week the next week. – jakebeal Apr 1 '19 at 14:32

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