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I'm about to graduate college and this is my first time submitting a manuscript and I need some guidance because my PI has been busy with his grant. I submitted my manuscript to Behavioral sleep medicine since January and it has been sitting with the editor and did not enter the peer review process. I thought this was a great journal because of their metrics.

I found out it was a lie. When I looked them up on PubMed I noticed only 40 papers got published in the last year which is really small compared to other journals even during COVID-19. I emailed the journal multiple times about a time frame and they copied and pasted this same message twice "I do apologize, but I have no further information at this time. The editor is working diligently to get decisions out as soon as possible."

I'm about to graduate and I feel like I won’t have time to work in this journal and neither would my coauthors and I was wondering what I should do. I worked on this project for 6 years straight from undergrad to grad. Should I withdraw and submit it to sleep health?

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    Do you know the name of the editor that is taking care of your paper? get in touch ---by phone-- with him. – EarlGrey May 10 at 6:26
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    Three comments: (1) Journals publishing a small number of papers isn't necessarily bad. The most prestigious journal in my field publishes ~40 papers a year. (2) If you believe your paper hasn't started peer review only because that's what the automated software says, you might be right but I wouldn't be certain. (3) Your PI is busy? Aren't we all. In my opinion, under the circumstances you are entitled to some of your PI's time. – academic May 10 at 20:58
  • @earlgrey Do you think contacting the editor is approtarate?@academic I wish my paper was even seen by the editor to hit the peer review process or even get a rejection/acceptance but it sadly has not. yea but in the year 2019 they do so much more which worries me they are really behind – jake Dam May 10 at 22:20
  • Yes, absolutely appropriate, you will be asking about the status of the review process, whether they found appropriate reviewers, about the timeline and so on. By the way, the peer review should be a (double)blind process, but you should have all the contact details of the editor managing your paper. It's not about science, you are not trying to influence their decision: you are trying to understand whether you still want to be their customer or not. – EarlGrey May 11 at 5:16
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The average length of time that it takes for a manuscript to work its way through the submission/review process can vary from one discipline to the next, and I'm not really sure what that would be for yours. Coming from my own experience in the humanities, I would normally expect an editor to take no longer than a month to get a manuscript out to reviewers. Of course, there are a number of legitimate reasons for delays, such as an editor having a hard time securing reviewers (or getting reviewers who end up backing out or are unresponsive to an editor's request for evaluations).

That said, I do think that a case such as yours seems unprofessional. You've reached out and haven't received any specific explanation for the delay and the response doesn't even seem to align with your situation (you mention that your manuscript hasn't been sent out for peer review, yet they mention that they're working on sending decisions out...) I would probably send another email indicating that I'd like to withdraw my submission. However, if you have co-authors on this paper, do not do so without consulting them first. I would also copy them in this email if they are also OK with withdrawing.

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  • Thank you for the reply and i was wondering would it be appropriate for me to email the editor directly to follow up and see what is going on in the situation and ask her for a updated time frame with the covid pandemic going on? – jake Dam May 10 at 22:14
  • @jakeDam Yes, if the communication you mentioned in your original post was not with the editor, I would write to her directly to check on the status. If you get no/an unhelpful response, I would withdraw this manuscript. – Ace May 12 at 0:03
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It's not fair to say the journal isn't responding. They clearly are - "I do apologize, but I have no further information at this time. The editor is working diligently to get decisions out as soon as possible."

Evidently the person who isn't responding is the editor (or possibly the reviewers). Here you are out of luck. If it's the editor not responding, the journal cannot really force the editor to respond; if it's the reviewers, the journal cannot invite new reviewers either (that is mainly the purview of the editors of the journal).

So you'll have to decide for yourself what to do next. If you decide to wait, you could easily be waiting for a really long time. On the other hand, if you submit elsewhere, you'd not only be starting from square one, you could still end up waiting for a really long time. There's no easy answer for this one. If it's any comfort, journal editors regularly have to make this decision too (except for them it's whether to invite new reviewers or wait for the already-invited-but-not-responsive reviewers to finish their reviews).

It's possible the journal will be willing to share some more details with you if you ask for them. The journal might be willing to answer "how many reviewers are invited?" or "when are the reviews due?". If it's the reviewers that are not responding, it might be better to wait, because an active editor should always be able to find reviewers eventually. On the other hand if it's the editor who isn't responding, it might be better to submit elsewhere.

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  • Sorry, I added "the journal is not responding" in my edit to make the title clearer, but I see that it may not be the best choice of words. Feel free to improve it if necessary. – GoodDeeds May 10 at 10:22
  • Thank you for the reply and i was wondering would it be appropriate for me to email the editor directly to follow up and see what is going on in the situation? I honestly don't want to start from square one again but at the same time i don't want to wait till 2022 to get a response – jake Dam May 10 at 22:18
  • @jakeDam if you know who the editor is, you can ask them, yes. – Allure May 10 at 23:29
  • @jakeDam If the manuscript hasn't been sent out to reviewers, you haven't really progressed beyond square one. In my field sending a manuscript to the reviewers should take less than a month (there are some journals promising that it takes less than a month until you get a decision). I would withdraw the manuscript and submit elsewhere. – Roland Jun 10 at 5:18

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