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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 passed.

This journal is by no means a top field journal, but it's a solid "good" journal. It's not terrible or predatory or anything like that. It's from the big 4 publishers.

Next, 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. This person's email address first.surname@publisher.com is also the contact email under the "Contact Us" tab in Editorial Manager. One additional month passed.

I asked this question Is it acceptable to directly email the Editor-in-Chief if the editorial staff are not responding? on this forum. I then emailed the Editor in Chief at his institutional email, which was not listed on the website. That was about 10 days ago and he has not responded. All my emails have been polite, asking for an update on the status of the manuscript, etc.

This has never happened that the journal/editorial staff have simply not responded to communication, especially twice. What should be my next step? Aside from the initial confirmation email (after submitting the manuscript), I have never heard from the journal at all. (Aside: when I press reply to that initial confirmation email, it would go to the same first.surname@publisher.com staff member as mentioned previously.) For example, I have received no email that a particular editor or associate editor was handling my manuscript. Thus, I can see the list of editors on the website, but don't know any of them personally, and don't know which of them is handling my manuscript.

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 try to contact the publisher directly. However, the publisher's website does state that for any request pertaining to a specific journal, consult the journal's website for whom to contact. So, what's my next step?

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    Have you checked your spam mailbox?
    – Allure
    Aug 1 '21 at 0:24
  • Yes, I check my spam every day. Also emails from this publisher always come through. Aug 1 '21 at 4:00
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    At what time are we now? X plus a month? They may mean that X is something like the average time, and from how I know such indications, taking one or even two or three moths longer is quite normal. Maybe some more patience could be a good next step. Aug 1 '21 at 14:19
  • Is your experience with this journal worse than your experience with other ones? (assuming that you have had previous experience)
    – Yemon Choi
    Aug 2 '21 at 2:37
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    Yes, this experience of simply not hearing back multiple times is something I have never experienced. Aug 2 '21 at 2:41
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Given the track record of the journal so far, I'd say you're better off sending the original journal a message saying that you're withdrawing your submission, and starting over at another journal. You don't need to wait for an acknowledgement of your withdrawal (which might never come) from the first journal (answers to this question say you should wait for confirmation, albeit in a very different scenario; I'd say waiting a week or so to be extra-courteous would be reasonable, but longer is unnecessary).

It sucks but that will probably serve you better than trying to fix the broken system at the current journal.

This answer says

Withdrawal because you think the review process is too slow might be OK after very many months without any communication or signs of progress ...

but if you are two months past the journal's average time to first decision, without the courtesy of a response (even "sorry, we're being slow") from anyone associated with the journal, it seems justified.

(Checking your junk/spam folder as @Allure suggests is probably a good first step though.)

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If you really want to publish in this journal, try giving them a phone call. You could call either the editor-in-chief or the publisher. If you go with the editor-in-chief and (s)he doesn't answer the phone, you could call the department receptionist.

Otherwise you could give up and withdraw the manuscript. In this case I would just write that if you don't receive a response within [time] then you are withdrawing, and follow through if you still don't receive a response.

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