I submitted one of my paper to an ISI journal in September 2011. While I was waiting for it, I inquired about its status (I needed the paper to complete my PhD), and the journal wrote back saying that my paper was under review and the referee was not answering. I was thus waiting.

But after more than two years (about 26 months), the journal sent me this:

By a QUICK view on your paper, it is not interested for our journal and so we reject your paper

I think they could have answered earlier. Unfortunately, now my work is still not published and some authors published my results in another journal. So, I want to complain to the journal, and possibly get them eliminated from Thomson's lists. How can I achieve this?

  • @golin I tried to make your question clearer, and edited some of the language. I hope (and think) the original intent is retained
    – F'x
    Oct 22 '13 at 14:04
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    To complain to the journal, you can just send them an e-mail. On the other hand, you aren't going to get them eliminated from Thomson's lists. Oct 22 '13 at 14:15
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    I'd suggest taking this as a learning experience that if the wait time exceeds their reported duration by ___ months, you'll send a letter to retract and then submit to another place so that you're less likely to be scooped again. And my research team had one that reached 4+ years. I was done and left the team so not sure if it's published/rejected/undecided. Oct 22 '13 at 17:34
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    I do not see much you can do, apart from informing Thompson (not likely to be useful); but this story shows how open archives protect authors: had you put your paper in a repository before submitting, you would have a stamp of anteriority and the damage done by the journal would be less dramatic. Oct 22 '13 at 18:18

First, to quickly address your explicit question in boldface, here's the official words from Thomson Reuters regarding their journal selection process for Web of Science and annual review:


While they apparently take timeliness and peer review very seriously, my impression is that a single instance of slow external review is not a strong enough reason to remove a journal. As this recent blog post on Nature shows, they do ban journals rather aggressively when they feel necessary. But those dropped journals are serious offenders of abuse and are clearly hurting Thomson Reuters' business.

Every researcher experiences unfair rejection in some way or another once in a while. I understand that it is very unfortunate that this has happened at a very early stage of your career. But this seems to be a lost cause at this point. And if you are sure that it was unjustifiable and if you do want to take some action, the best you could do seems to be let Editor in Chief know exactly what happened by writing a letter from an objective viewpoint in polite language and in sober tone and ask them to consider what they might be able to do to improve contributor experience. If you do not receive a satisfactory reply from them, you might consider reporting everything to the publisher that owns the journal.

But before you take any action, you should ask opinions from experienced researchers in your fields, such as your advisor. This is very important because different fields have different cultures in academia.

I assume that you are enrolled in a Ph.D. program in mathematics; I saw your post on MathOverflow. If this is the case, you might want to take a look at the most recent yearly report by American Mathematical Society on how long it typically takes for a paper to get accepted:


As you can see, the median time from submission to final acceptance varies greatly from journal to journal. You might want to notice how it takes a long time to get your paper reviewed by some of the most respected mathematics journals. For instance, Annals of Mathematics, which is arguably the most prestigious journal in mathematics, takes 24 months on average for review. The Memoirs of American Mathematical Society averagely takes more than 18 months from submission to acceptance. Granted that the practice of these journals is more of an exception than the norm, two years of review is certainly not unheard of in mathematics. So, while I tend to believe that your paper could have been reviewed much more quickly because a typical paper certainly does not require two years, it is impossible for us to tell if it was unjust or not without more context.

As for the priority issue you brought up, if it is in mathematics, I must say that you should not be surprised if you do not receive much sympathy. Reading your post, it appears that you did not make your preprint available to other members of the mathematics community before or soon after submission. Because mathematics has a much longer review process than other fields, it is quite common and, I think, very important to disseminate your results as soon as possible by, for example, uploading your preprint on arXiv or directly sending it through email to people you are sure will be interested. In fact, some journals explicitly encourage authors to upload their preprints on arXiv upon submission.

With that said, I understand that arXiv and other means of "pre-publication" are not for everyone. In mathematics, for example, one Fields Medalist mentions unpopularity of arXiv among East Asian authors he noticed during his little experiment on arXiv usage. As someone who was born and raised in Japan and received a Ph.D. from a Japanese university, I know how people may have their own valid reasons not to make their preprint public. You may have some strong belief or policy regarding science publication models as well. I din not use arXiv when I was a graduate student in Japan, either. However, you should not complain when someone "beats you to it" when you could prevent it by following the normal practice in the community.

Now, if you managed to read this wall of text this much, that means that you are the good kind of person who can stay calm and be in control of yourself in a tough situation. And, obviously, you have good math skills with which you proved new theorems worth publishing. So, if there is one thing I am sure of, it is that you have been heading in the right direction as a graduate student.

If you feel like the journal caused an unnecessary delay or "gap year" of some sort to your career, I guess you're right. But personally I try not to overthink, and try to think it's just another unavoidable glitch that often gets us out of the blue in our lives. (Notice the word "try." I fail very often.) You know, there are so many horror stories like yours out there in mathematics... (And never ask why I've been doing a postdoc for so many years!) It sucks for sure. But probably the best you can do now is talk to your advisor, who is there to give you advice anyway, and get back to your math life as soon as possible to prove more theorems. Good luck!

  • thank you so much dear Yuichiro Fujiwara for your complete and kindly answer to me
    – user9119
    Oct 23 '13 at 11:23

It can't be done (sorry). Clarivate Analytics is not related to the journal in any way. They do impose some quality criteria, such as not having excessive self-citation, but turnaround time is not something they use. One can hardly blame them for this, because turnaround time is not public info, because it is highly varied, and because it has no bearing on the quality of the work that's published. Besides, they're not going to arbitrate a dispute between you and the journal - it's none of their business.

To use an analogy, what you are trying to do is similar to getting the Academic Ranking of World Universities to delist a university because of how they mistreated a single student - short of you buying over Shanghai Ranking Consultancy and forcing the change through, it's just not happening.

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