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I submitted a manuscript to a journal one year ago. The journal is well known and has already published papers on the same subject including one of my previous papers. The paper I submitted went under review after two weeks. After eight months, I contacted the journal to inquire about the status of my manuscript, I got no response. I contacted the journal again after two months, and the managing editor informed me that the handling editor is trying to secure a referee for my paper. I sent another email three months later, the managing editor said that the handling editor is still trying to secure a referee for my paper. I asked them if I could suggest some referees and they agreed.

My question is: what should I do after this long waiting period?

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    There is so much wrong with a journal and its community if you hear back after 10 (!) months that a paper has still not found its reviewers. What is wrong with people? – Wolfgang Bangerth Mar 17 at 10:23
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    You should phonecall the editor or whoever is in charge. It's the time to make clear that behind that paper there is a person, not just an email address. – EarlGrey Mar 17 at 15:00
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As you pointed out you have several options:

  • Do nothing and wait for the editor to find a referee.
  • Withdraw and submit elsewhere.
  • Send the editor a list of people who might be able to review your paper.

Nobody, including the editor, can predict what will happen if you do any of these things. Doing nothing and waiting is probably the least likely to result in a good outcome quickly, because the editor's already shown they are not able to find reviewers quickly (although there's always the chance a reviewer's time frees up and they can review). Withdrawing and submitting elsewhere would mean starting over, and there's no guarantee the editor of the new journal will be able to find reviewers either. The third option is effectively a better (for you) version of the first option, but it's still not ideal, because you can't guarantee the reviewers you suggest will agree to review either. You can only tell who might be interested in your paper.

Because there's no ideal option, you will have to make your own decision. How badly do you want to publish in this journal? If the answer is "very", do #3. Otherwise consider (but not necessarily take) #2.

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  • I sent them a list of potential reviewers. The journal feets well with the content of the paper and it seems to me that they already received the report of at least one reviewer and for this reason perhaps they did not reject the paper, but waiting for one year without finding another reviewer is just a lot. I hesitate to withdraw the paper for the reason you mentioned ... – user108724 Mar 17 at 15:56
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It is all up to you. The situation is not uncommon. Unfortunately, nowadays it is getting harder and harder to find a good referee. This is especially true for smaller fields. Many journals ask for a list of 5-6 potential referees. If many potential referees decline, the journals often reject the paper. The fact that your paper is not rejected yet, is a good sign.

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    I do not think that "it is getting harder and harder to find a good referee". I'd like to see evidence for this claim. – Wolfgang Bangerth Mar 17 at 10:24
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    @WolfgangBangertj; I am the Editor-in-Chief of an EMS journal. What kind of evidence do you need? – user135405 Mar 17 at 12:42
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    @dodd The further evidence that is needed is of course a peer-reviewed study. As the editor-in-chief of a journal, you should know the value of anecdotal evidence. – Mike Scott Mar 17 at 15:31
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    @JeopardyTempest it seems to me that only one reviewer is missing because the paper went under review after two weeks – user108724 Mar 17 at 15:59
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    @JeopardyTempest: It is a sign that specialists do not want to referee it and the paper should be rejected. But it could mean many other things. For example, a referee agreed but in two months said that he is too busy and the editor needs yo find another one, and so on. In my journal currently there are 5 papers submitted more than 2 years ago. – user135405 Mar 17 at 16:00
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Anecdote that may help.

I submitted a paper to the right journal. It took more than a year to get feedback - I do not know why.

Rather than retract and resubmit elsewhere, I nagged. I emailed the editor directly, and her editorial assistant. Included the email history each time. I even telephoned once. The paper was finally accepted. I think that the editor was so frustrated and embarrassed by that point that she skimmed the paper herself, thought it looked correct and appropriate (it was) and accepted it.

This was a small low key journal, not run by a big publisher, so I could contact the editor directly. If you can only go through the journal's web portal this route may not be available.

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