About six months ago I submitted a paper in one of the very reputed IEEE Transactions. I have observed from different papers published in that journal that the average time for receiving the first review is around 3 months. That is why I politely inquired about the status of the manuscript after around 4 months from the date of submission by sending a mail to the associate editor (AE). The AE promptly replied me about the status and said that two out of three reviews were still being awaited. However, it is now six months and I still do not see any change in the status of the manuscript in the online portal.

So, my question is: is it too soon to send a second mail to the AE asking about the status of the manuscript and can such second mail irritate the AE to the point that it might negatively impact the review process of my manuscript?

  • What do you expect to learn from the answer? Probably nothing you don't know already. So in that sense sending such a message is a waste of your and the AE's time. There are special circumstances where such a message could be useful, but normally I would not sent such a message, especially not a second one. – Maarten Buis Oct 9 '19 at 15:02
  • @Maarten Buis If OP asks is becuase he does not know the answer. If the AE's time have not responded , positively or negatively, then they are rudely wasting OPs time. – deags Nov 8 '19 at 18:28

I think it should be fine to inquire (politely, of course) at this point. While it may be a minor irritant, it should not affect the outcome of the acceptance decision provided the journal follows ethical practice.

If you have a decision to make about the paper it is important to get the information. If it is just to ease your uncertainty then you could also let it go a bit longer. But there shouldn't really be a downside. Maybe a note would get the editor to prod the reviewers a bit.


It is not rude to ask. It is rude to not provide an answer, either positive or negative. If they ignore you and just don't answer then they are wasting your time.

Do inquire again politely, asking for a response be it either positive, negative, or a future day to wait for a response/inquire again. Dont let them NOT answer, send a copy not only to the AE but also to their marketing or PR team or the closest equivalent. But do check first if in their site or somewhere there is a policy about answering times, in which case you can mention it.

If they dont answer ask again by social media and openly. You can too ask other authors how long it took them to get an answer so you can reference that too, however at this point you should be already looking for another journal for your paper.

Things are changing and traditional institutions and media are finding out that they don't have all the power anymore. You are not a beggar, you are a contributor and your work and time should be respected at least enough to get an answer.


There are no right answers for questions like these. I have had a wide variety of experiences in the peer review process and known others' experience that have more or less convinced me that the "other" side does not always play by the rules.

(1)I know of a journal where a paper has sat on an AE's desk for 9 months without getting rejected nor being able to get a reviewer. The journal hides behind the claim that it is difficult to get reviewers because reviewing is a voluntary activity.

They do this and they frown upon multiple simultaneous submissions to different journals? Talk about having your cake and eating it too!

(2)I know of a journal which rejected a paper for a wrong reason -- neither the AE nor the referee had a clue what was going on. An appeal was made to the Editor in Chief, who neither acknowledges the email, nor apologizes on behalf of the AE.

So, they will sit on authors' papers and in the off chance it goes out for review, you can get hit by an incompetent reviewers and then the EIC will not respond to authors' emails that enquire about how the journal is going to correct the mistake they made?

(3)For all cliches about it being a very objective process, I have seen authors that are in high-ranked institutions publish mediocre papers in top journals and authors in low-ranked institutions with more sophisticated work get turned down. The review times for the former are also much shorter.

All in all, many journals that are highly regarded are unethically run. It is luck, who you are networked with, who your co-authors are, what the zip-code is of your institution that decides what get published and what does not.

So, to answer your question again, there is no right and no wrong in what you can and should do with AEs/EICs, etc.

It is a myth that scientific publication is an objective field that rewards merit regardless of anything else.

  • Not only not an answer, it is a rant. – Buffy Oct 9 '19 at 16:57
  • Which fact would you like to dispute? – Tryer Oct 9 '19 at 16:59
  • "many journals that are highly regarded are unethically run" what is your definition of unethically run? "What the zip-code is of your institution ... decides what gets published" citation needed. Point (3) ... were you a reviewer? editor? "hides behind the claim that it is difficult to get reviewers ...." you were an editor who never had any difficulties getting non-incompetent reviewers? – CGCampbell Oct 9 '19 at 17:05
  • unethically run - AE knows authors, fasttracks process, you scratch my back, I scratch yours. Too many to list. I cannot say more without revealing my identity almost. Why do journals sit 9 months because they don't get reviewers, dont reject the paper and still get to frown upon multiple simultaneous submissions?! Variance in Rankings of authors' affiliated universities is much smaller in top journals than in 2nd tier journals. No, high ranked authors are NOT uniquely endowed with superior intelligence. Why don't journals have a completely blind process - even EIC does NOT know author names? – Tryer Oct 9 '19 at 17:13

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