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I have sent a manuscript to Optica, I have published there before and in other high-impact journals. This time my submission was first sent to 5 referees (I listed three names as requested). I thought that is reasonable since some will not be available etc. One ref agreed and the other said they were unavailable. Then the editor sent it again to 6 more referees. Now, 2 months later, I'm expecting to have 6 referee reports (5/6 agreed). This is still round 1.

I have never had this number of reports, including Nature or Science. It was usually 2-4 referees. Besides the inefficiency and time consuming process for all involved, what's the point? Is there a cap limit on this? Should there be? Has anyone had a similar experience?

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  • I was once a reviewer for an article with 10 reviewers... the topic was interesting. Dec 2, 2022 at 7:10
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    Assuming the editor does their job and judges the merits of each review report properly, why do you care? The more researchers provide feedback, the better.
    – user9482
    Dec 2, 2022 at 8:09

2 Answers 2

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Here's a hypothesis that nonetheless explains what you're seeing and fits closely with my experience handling a journal. Your journal has a requirement that there must be at least 2 reviews per paper. Now some invited reviewers will decline, or accept and fail to submit a review. Since you also need to a reasonably short turnaround time, the only option is to invite more than 2 reviewers per paper to start.

In your case the editor invited five reviewers, only one of whom agreed to review. Since one review is not enough (note there is no guarantee that reviewer will actually submit a review as well), the editor invited another batch of reviewers (six of them). This time the editor got lucky, and most of those reviewers agreed to review your paper.

So you end up with 6 reports. Huzzah.

If there was a guarantee that every invited reviewer will submit a review, then this will never happen, but since there is no such guarantee, every now and then what you're seeing will happen. Every now and then there'll be other failures as well, e.g. a paper with only one reviewer report (because the editor judges they can't invite new reviewers from scratch given the average turnaround time of the journal).

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  • I agree, but I think its more as if that was the case the editor could have sent the other referees (after 2-4 reports) an email that their service is no longer needed. that was not the case here, there are 2 weeks between the first of the 6 and the last... here the editor just set a reminder to 1 month or something...
    – bla
    Dec 2, 2022 at 5:18
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    If the other reviewers aren't responding, what's the point of sending them an email to tell them their service is no longer needed? They aren't aren't responding (including to what is presumably automated reminders) so it seems pointless.
    – Allure
    Dec 2, 2022 at 5:45
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Allure in their answer describes exactly a situation I found myself in as an editor recently. I felt sorry for the authors for having to deal with this many reviews, though in practice they ended up being quite similar and pointed out overlapping issues.

In my case, I actually had only 4 reviewers from elsewhere accept, but I had also asked two of my grad students to write reviews because I think that's an important part of their education. So we ended up with six.

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