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I have submitted a manuscript on COVID-19 to a scientific journal in mid-2020. Since then, I have not heard from the journal, although the status says 'Under Review'. As the publication is related to COVID-19, I believe that it is imperative to disseminate the publication as soon as possible once it is accepted. However, as it has been more than half a year, I am afraid that my manuscript's findings are obsolete once it is published, especially considering that evidence related to COVID-19 is quickly expanding.

I have posted the paper to a preprint database. However, I believe that it is important for the peer-reviewed publication to be disseminated at the earliest. In this regard, I have tried contacting the editorial office several times, but I have not received any replies yet. I am afraid that the editorial process may cost me my publication, especially considering that it has been more than half a year since I gathered the evidence.

Is there any suggestion on what I should do?

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    If you have already contacted the editor there is probably not much more that you can do. Perhaps do that again, politely. Jan 22 at 15:53
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    There are a few different potential concerns mixed together here, e.g. (1) your work will have limited visibility because it's not in a peer-reviewed venue; (2) your work will have less acceptance because it's not in a peer-reviewed venue; (3) your work will have trouble being accepted if the review process is so slow that it's no longer relevant by the time it's reviewed (and if rejected it will be harder to get accepted in a new venue). Can you say which of these you're (most) worried about, and clarify what you mean by "cost me my publication"?
    – Ben Bolker
    Jan 22 at 16:21
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    If the paper is good science then it should be timeless. If it is something other than good science then you may have the wrong venue. In particular, things that demand action now are poor topics for journal articles.
    – Buffy
    Jan 22 at 16:57
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    @Buffy I agree that a good paper will last for indefinite time. However, as my paper is based on secondary data (i.e. systematic review), there will be many new studies by the time my paper is published, and the findings may be obsolete as the pooled results may differ when the new studies are incorporated to the model Jan 22 at 17:45
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    @Buffy "If the paper is good science then it should be timeless" - yes and no. Papers become obsolete whether or not they contain "good science". There are also times when certain areas of research are particularly hot such that the impact of a paper is greatest within a particular time window. Some medical journals see everything they publish as demanding action now due to the direct relevance to patient care that is ongoing, and top journals have some editorial criteria that translate to something like "only papers that will make a clinical impact today".
    – Bryan Krause
    Jan 22 at 18:11
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Based on the discussion in the comments, i.e. given that your primary concern is that the paper might be rejected after a very slow editorial process and then be hard to get accepted at another journal because it is no longer relevant/"hot"/topical/etc ...

I think you have only two (not entirely distinct) choices.

  1. As suggested by @EthanBolker, try the editorial office again (politely but firmly).
  2. Contact the editorial office and let them know that you're withdrawing the paper from review. Unfortunately, this means that you have to start the review process all over again at another journal (you should probably explain the history of the paper in your cover letter). If you are willing to sacrifice impact factor for speed, you might try an 'open' venue like Faculty of 1000 Coronavirus papers or (if you or one of your collaborators has Wellcome funding) Wellcome Open Research.

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