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I have submitted a paper to a journal that says the time to first decision is generally X months, and that there are strict deadlines for reviewers to complete their review. After X months were up, I used the journal's internal submission system (Editorial Manager) to send a direct message to the editorial office, with no response. Two weeks after that, I searched the journal website and found an email address of a staff member to contact about the submissions and peer review process. This staff member appears to be a full-time employee of the publisher, rather than an academic. I emailed the staff member, and also got no response. It has now been another month since I emailed the staff member.

Both of my emails were very polite, asking for an update on the peer review process, and this has never happened that the journal staff have simply not responded to communication, especially twice. What should be my next step? I can contact other staff members listed on the journal website (who deal with different matters such as author proofs after the paper is accepted) or I can contact the Editor-in-Chief directly. His email is not listed on the journal website, but I can easily locate his institutional email. What should I do - is it reasonable to email that?

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  • Judging from the number of questions here on Academia.SE on this topic, if I one day manage a team of desk editors at some publisher, I'll instruct them to always respond to requests for status updates. Getting no response to emails is frustrating, and authors deserve better.
    – Allure
    Jul 20 at 4:53
  • Take anything you read on the journal's website with a grain of salt, and yes, ask an editor. When I accept a referee assignment, I discuss with the editor how long I expect to take.
    – academic
    Aug 5 at 18:19
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Yes, I think it would be quite reasonable to email a member of the editorial board at this point. I don't think of this as anywhere close to a "nuclear" option -- in my own experience, few of the academics involved in the publication process are intimately familiar with automated submission systems or can vouch for how they are supposed to work. In less favorable circumstances these automated systems can actually function as an obstruction to communication by keeping your message away from the people who are empowered to meaningfully respond to it.

One should make a distinction between this and going over the head of a specific (academic) editor. This latter action might still be appropriate depending upon the situation, but it does carry the risk of ruffling feathers. The journal itself (or again, more likely the enormous company that publishes it) does not really have feathers to be ruffled in this way.

The one thing I would advise is to consider which member of the Editorial Board you wish to contact. As above you are fully "within your rights" to contact the Editor in Chief, but I think you should contact whichever member of the board is most likely to feel a social obligation to respond to you promptly. For instance, if you have met any member of the Editorial Board in person and had non-negative (even if routine) interactions with them, then I would encourage you to contact them. Failing that, if you think there is some member who would find your work of particular interest and/or value you might try them. But if there is no member of the board who stands out as favorable in any way...sure, just write to the Editor in Chief.

You certainly deserve a response. Good luck!

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See if the journal has a general email. The individual staff member might no longer be employed by the company. For example the journal Physics of the Dark Universe has a general email dark@elsevier.com (in the "contact the editorial office" tab of that page) which should always reach whoever is in charge of the journal right now.

If the journal lists who is handling what in its journal webpage, then you could email other members of the production staff, but whether they respond will be heavily dependent on the individual. Someone who's handling author proofs is not likely to be involved in, or able to see, the review process; and therefore your request would be "none of their business". They could try to find out for you (e.g. by redirecting you to the actual editor), or they might just ignore you. I know I would always redirect such requests, but I also know some people who are likely to file it away and forget about it.

Publisher-wise there's a last option which is to write to the publisher's general email. You are almost surely going to reach a gatekeeper, but the gatekeeper will know who to redirect your request to. In the case of Physics of the Dark Universe, Elsevier has a "file a complaint" form you could use.

Or you could contact the editorial board. In this case I recommend against contacting an individual editor, because in Editorial Manager, individual editors cannot see what other editors are doing. You need more advanced permissions, which means you need to contact one of the more senior editors. If there is a section editor for your field, you could try him/her; otherwise the editor-in-chief will be the person to ask.

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