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I am looking at a paper by some colleagues, that has been in ASAP status for 4 months now. In that particular journal, “ASAP” indicates accepted papers after the authors have corrected the proofs: i.e., they are just like the final paper, except they have not been attributed an issue and page number yet (and have thus not yet appeared in print).

Most papers in that particular journal only stay 2 or 3 weeks in ASAP status, before being assigned an to an issue. This paper stands out, being the only one so old on the website. Yet, no indication additional information is given on the publisher's website.

What can cause a paper to be stuck so long in ASAP queue? Would it be impolite to ask the corresponding author what's going on? (I admit it would only be to satisfy my own curiosity…)

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    Possibly waiting for a special issue? – StrongBad Oct 1 '13 at 12:10
  • @DanielE.Shub that's a good idea… but I don't think it'd be all alone like that, if that were the case – F'x Oct 1 '13 at 12:15
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    Does the journal have an image on its cover about a paper that issue contains? This has happened before in one journal where the paper was kept in limbo because they wanted to showcase it on the cover and were waiting for the right time. – Joel Reyes Noche Oct 1 '13 at 12:39
  • Canadian Math Bulletin and Journal publishes the articles online as soon as they are ready, and then in the printed version as soon as possible (they are removed from the online list at that point). So being published online is exactly like the ASAP from the question (I think). Right now, the CMB has about 70 online papers, and another 10-15 which are almost final (author draft, typically means only esthetic changes are needed). With 4 issues/year of about 25 papers each, it means that typically papers for about then next 9 month are online for that particular journal. – Nick S Oct 1 '13 at 17:38
  • Of course, in math the waiting time is most of the time much longer than in other areas... – Nick S Oct 1 '13 at 17:39
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As was mentioned in the comments, one possibility is that the editors are waiting for a better time to publish the paper, perhaps as part of a special issue or to highlight the paper on its cover.

Another possibility is that the authors have not fulfilled some requirements for publication like signing a copyright transfer form or paying the page charges.

Or perhaps there are some problematic issues about the paper. Maybe the topic is controversial and some members of the board don't want it published, or perhaps the editors suspect some unethical publication practice. (If it is this last reason, then perhaps it would be impolite to ask the authors about it.)

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    I think it is the “highlight the paper on its cover”… I hadn't thought about it, but it makes sense – F'x Oct 2 '13 at 10:05

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