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I sent a manuscript five months ago to an APS journal (American Physical Society) and five referees refused to review my paper in this time interval.

Some of them responded after about four weeks and in the status it is written that: message received (not a report). My paper is about thermodynamics in gravitating systems. What should I do?

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  • 3
    Well, your options are to 1) wait or 2) withdraw. Is your question about how to decide between those two options? Nov 27 '21 at 22:37
  • Bail bail bail! Nov 28 '21 at 3:20
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    The APS has such a system that they do not confirm with the referee that they accept the reviewer task. I have seen worse (14 attempts). You can only email the editor to enquire about the situation.
    – Miguel
    Nov 28 '21 at 15:36
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    Does this answer your question? What does the typical workflow of a journal look like? Nov 29 '21 at 3:25
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    I review for APS journals regularly and this is not unusual. It may have nothing to do with you; I just refused to review because I was sick. Nov 29 '21 at 3:27
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This isn't your problem. It's the role of the editor to find reviewers. The only things you can do are:

  • Do more exciting research so people want to review your paper.
  • Suggest reviewers to the editor (you should have a good idea of who works in your field and hence is likely to be interested in your paper).
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  • As the author usually wants to publish and not wait unnecessarily long, it becomes his problem. I agree with everything else, so I upvoted anyway.
    – usr1234567
    Nov 28 '21 at 16:32
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    Well, I'd agree that it's the editor's job to make a good-faith effort to find reviewers. Beyond that, a difficulty in finding reviewers possibly, reasonably, is already an indicator about the submission. Nov 28 '21 at 23:53
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You can ask an editor for advice. If the editor has a plan for finding referees then you can probably leave the paper in place for a while longer. Otherwise you can consider withdrawing it and submitting it elsewhere.

But, submitting it to another journal might leave you at the beginning of the same frustrating cycle. There may be overlap between referees at different journals and it might be that your paper has characteristics making review difficult, or especially specialized.

If the journal publish a lot in that area then they probably have a lot of reviewers and some of the "turn-downs" might just be "too busy at the moment".

The editor has an interest, like yours, in getting the process moving.

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    Indeed... and you might also want to get advice/comments from your mentor or advisor or colleagues where you are, who will give you more direct, less formal feedback. It's possibly a sign about the writing or tone of the paper that "puts off" potential referees. Nov 27 '21 at 22:43
  • Asking the editor for advice is not appropriate when only five reviewers have declined to review. That is just slightly more than average. Nov 29 '21 at 3:28

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