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Why do Reviewers intentionally delay or write negligent reports?

I submitted a manuscript to a SCI indexed journal 7 months back. It was under review for 5 months. I received a report which said "The results are interesting but the paper is very long. Also it does not fit the aims and scopes of the journal. Hence rejected."

The report involved no constructive criticism, no ways to improve the manuscript. Moreover if the manuscript was not under the aims and scopes why would the Editor even send it for review?

Is it that the Reviewer was trying to find something in the manuscript for 5 months so that it could fit the aims and scopes but when he/she could not, he/she rejected it. I don't think that's the case though.

My question is why do reviewers do these things.

  1. If they are not willing to review a paper, why do they even accept the invitation for review?
  2. Secondly reviewers are authors themselves, why don't they value the time and effort of another author.
  3. Thirdly, if they find that a paper is not within the aims and scopes, why don't they inform it early? It certainly does not take 5 months to decide it?

What can I do to avoid this kind of behaviour from the Reviewers side? Is there any solution?

Any help is appreciated.

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  • 9
    1. We accept to review a paper because we thought the paper is interesting after reading the Title+Abstract. 2. They do, but they also expect other authors to carry out the research processes properly. For example, if I find that authors didn't do a good job in the due diligence phase, I'll reject the paper. Another example is a poorly written paper. A reviewer's job is not to write a paper for the authors. So a simple/terse feedback is to ask the authors to come back when the paper is up to standard. Jun 8, 2021 at 4:50
  • 3. A possible reason is that the editor didn't do a good job or the reviewers do not know the aim and scope of the journal. Jun 8, 2021 at 4:53
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    Does this answer your question? What does the typical workflow of a journal look like? Jun 8, 2021 at 6:01
  • @AnonymousPhysicist, No, I find my question different from the one linked
    – Charlotte
    Jun 8, 2021 at 6:03
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    If you look at that question, you will see that the five months might not have been used by the reviewer. Jun 8, 2021 at 6:03

1 Answer 1

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Ideally the editor will decide if the paper is within the scope of the journal but that may not be clear cut or the editor may be overwhelmed. Most journals ask reviewers to comment on whether the paper is within scope, so this is not a fault with your reviewer and may or may not be the fault of the editor. You have made several assumptions in your set up of this question that appear invalid. For example:

  • That the reviewer who ended up sending you the review had it for 5 months. I have had occasion where a reviewer agreed to do the review, then the journal never heard from them again. The editor had to find alternative reviewers who did not have 5 months. During COVID, many reviewers are also taking longer due to more demands on their time in other areas like online teaching. I had a journal take a long time just to find one reviewer who would say yes, because the first 10 people they asked said no. They ended up having to bring in a favour from another professor in their department.
  • That they don't respect your time or effort. You don't know their motivation - only what they sent you. Angry assumptions don't help you as an author. Go take a walk, have a coffee or beer with a friend, come back to it tomorrow when there is less sting to the rejection.

They have given you feedback - just not the detail or answers you wanted. They appear to be telling you to edit the paper to be more concise. They also gave you the feedback that the results are interesting - thus it is worth working on and submitting the paper elsewhere. Ask mentors or supervisors for advice on a well matched disciplinary journal and try again.

One day you too may be an overwhelmed academic with many demands on your time and several journals asking you to do reviews none of which are your top priority, which you aren't paid to do, and which isn't part of your KPIs. What you can do is write good papers, send them to well-matched journals, and be a good reviewer yourself. You cannot control other people.

Good luck with your edits and resubmission.

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  • No one is forcing anyone to do reviews. Someone who is overwhelmed shouldn't accept a review in the first place. Nov 9, 2022 at 13:23
  • In the above case, as I eluded to, it may have been many reviewers being approached by the editor and saying no that took up a great deal of the time between submission and receipt of the review, and not that the final reviewer took 5 months due to overwhelm. In an ideal world, we wouldn't take on more when already too busy, but given academic workloads, if we applied this rule, the peer-review system would likely fail. I have only ever said no to reviews I do not have the expertise to complete. That means a lot of unpaid overtime reviewing. Its worth keeping in mind that review is service.
    – The_Tams
    Nov 9, 2022 at 14:11

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