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Usually when I send a manuscript to a journal, in about 1 or 2 days, the status changes to "with editor" and after a maximum of 3 weeks the status changes to "with referee". This is the first time that a journal already spent two weeks until now to evaluate the paper for suitability before assigning it to the editor. Is it normal and what is the maximum logical time for me to wait?

p.s., my field is physics and the quartile for this journal is Q1 (IF: 3-4).

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  • 7
    I don't see anything weird. Too many possible explanations to list. Relax.
    – Buffy
    Jun 6 at 15:29
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    The automated system is there for the editors, and I wouldn't put too much stock in what it's saying. For example, I've gotten requests to referee from editors who simply emailed me rather than using the automated system. You don't have a reliable way to know what's going on behind the scenes at the moment, and I second Buffy's advice not to worry about it.
    – academic
    Jun 6 at 15:33
  • In some academic calendars, was this the pause between terms?
    – GEdgar
    Jun 7 at 0:47
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I find nothing odd that assigning the handling editor takes a few extra weeks for some papers.

Finding the correct editor to handle a paper can be harder in some case than others. It is better that the journal takes time to get that assignment right. I had a paper go out to referees and then months after submission it was given to a different editor who again sent it to referees. Sometimes it takes a while to find the right editor who could find the appropriate referees. By the way, this case involved a physics journal.

Also, maybe an editor got covid or just melted down from too much working from home. We live in interesting times.

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For your question, it can be inferred that your paper was submitted to one of the research journals published by the American Physical Society (most likely one of the Physical Review journals). So what I am going to say here will be, in part, based on my specific knowledge of the APS journals. However, most of this answer could be applied to a much more general situation.

In short, this is perfectly normal. Most of the time, manuscripts move through the early stages of the submission process more quickly; however, there is nothing especially unusual about it taking a few weeks longer for the status of the paper to change. A modest delay is nothing to worry about and can occur for totally innocuous reasons. For example, I have had first-hand experience with submissions to APS journals that appeared to be briefly held up for all the following reasons:

  • There was discussion among the editorial staff of whether the manuscript was more appropriate for a different Physical Review journal.
  • The editors were having unexpected problems getting one of the figures to appear correctly.
  • One of the editors was out sick for a week.
  • Someone at the editorial office forgot to change the manuscript's status in their system.

If I were you, I would not be worried at this point at all.

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