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I made a submission to a math journal. I was tracking my paper: its status was "under review" for more than 5 months. It was rejected without any report from reviewers and I just received a comment from an associate editor saying that the subject is more suitable for some other journals. I am confused. Why did the editor not desk-reject earlier and only make a decision after 5 months. Where is referee report?

I would like to add a comment: one of articles in my reference list has a similar subject to my paper and was published in that journal. But they said that it is suitable for some other journals!!!

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    It is possible that the editor sent it for a quick opinion to several experts, and they told the editor it is not good enough. This is a practice that becomes more and more common in math journals, especially selective ones. In that case, there is no referee report.
    – the L
    May 20, 2023 at 18:10

2 Answers 2

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"A subject is suited for some other journal" is a polite euphemism for "we could not find anyone to review your paper".

Given that your paper was with editor for 5 months, it is likely that the subject was not too alien for this journal, so the editor tried to find a reviewer, but failed.

Many academic journals find it more difficult to attract reviewers now, as academics worldwide are dealing with growing pressures from teaching, research and administration sides of the job, leaving very little for external service, which is often unpaid and under-appreciated in tenure/promotion decisions.

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    It is not "polite." May 20, 2023 at 16:01
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    I had a paper rejected in a similar situation after 9 month and the editor honestly said that they couldn't find a referee. May 20, 2023 at 16:42
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    "A subject is suited for some other journal" is a polite euphemism for "we could not find anyone to review your paper". -- this should probably say "... after five months is a polite euphemism ...". That rejection reason after, say, two weeks is probably a genuine desk reject.
    – Allure
    May 22, 2023 at 0:56
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Unfortunately it can well happen that reviewers don't respond to the invitation to review (not sure whether that would still trigger the status to go to "under review", but depending on the system it may), or, worse, they agree to review and then don't do it. At a certain point in time an Associate Editor or Editor has to make their mind up what to do next. They could invite new reviewers but that incurs the chance that even more time is lost as there is no guarantee that the next person(s) who come to mind deliver a report. What happens at this point will probably depend on what their own (maybe superficial) impression of the paper is. If they were skeptical in the first place but wanted to give the paper a chance, they may at this point decide to cut everyone's losses and reject the paper even though it's of course not a satisfactory situation. Same may happen if they exhausted their list of potentially suitable reviewers without success and don't feel confident enough to accept the paper based on their own impression. Keep in mind even more time could be lost if they wait for longer!

In principle you could ask if there is a reviewer report that should have been passed on to you but wasn't. Mistakes like this can happen. However I would only do that if what the AE or Editor write implies that this is the case. If they don't refer to any report, chances are there is none.

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