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The first time I submitted an article to the journal "Software: Practice and Experience". It took a month and a half to make a decision. It didn't get to peer review. Only the decision.

The second submission took much longer (over 13 months). The journal is "Concurrency and Computation: Practice and Experience" (again, Wiley). I submitted the article on December 1, 2022. The decision was made on January 16, 2024. Again, no peer review. I wrote to the editorial office several times. They replied that they cannot find reviewers. At some point, the editorial office stopped responding. I didn't even know how to withdraw the paper to resubmit it to another journal.

Finally, after more than 13 months, it was rejected without review. I received a response from an Associate Editor. And all this time, after numerous emails (when I asked about the current status, and I was told that the paper was under review and they were looking for reviewers), in fact they weren't going to review it at all.

I've never encountered anything like this before. How common is this? How can I withdraw a paper for resubmission to another journal if it is stuck in such a situation?

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    "they weren't going to review it at all": it is quite possible that they did try to have it reviewed, but all potential reviewers they asked declined (or ghosted the AE). You can always withdraw your paper simply by notifying the journal. (Keep a paper trail if you do so.) Jan 20 at 15:31
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    Editors all around have been finding it difficult to find peer reviewers. Studies of peer review indicate that a lot of people don't pull their weight in peer review (that is, review 2-3X as many papers as they submit) and the rest of the people shouldering the burden for little professional credit and no financial compensation are sick of it.
    – Bryan Krause
    Jan 20 at 15:32
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    @BryanKrause: plus, if you do a good job reviewing, you get "rewarded" by getting asked more often. People who do a bad job do not get asked again. The incentives are bass-ackwards. Jan 20 at 15:35
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    Also worth noting that Wiley bought Hindawi, a borderline predatory publisher with a lot of problems. Publishers like Hindawi and MDPI have massively increased the total number of papers published through special issues and permissive editorial policies. They really suck to review for because the work submitted is often low quality but the journal just wants it published so they can get their fee. I don't know if any of the journals you mention are former Hindawi properties but that might be another reason reviewers are hesitant.
    – Bryan Krause
    Jan 20 at 15:42
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    You don't need to receive a response to a withdrawal request. I'd wait a little time to be polite and then move on. Stephan recommends a paper trail so that if the journal claims you never withdrew you have the receipts to show you did.
    – Bryan Krause
    Jan 20 at 15:55

1 Answer 1

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The time taken to peer review is highly random - it depends on a lot of things, such as:

  • Whether the editor assigned to it is active
  • Whether the reviewers you invite the first time are available
  • Whether the reviewers are able to write a review within the deadline
  • Whether the editor is free to make a decision once the review is done

Therefore you should not draw any conclusions on "all Wiley journals" based on one or two papers. Many Wiley journals won't share any editors or reviewers at all. Even if they do (i.e. they have overlapping scope), because of the highly random nature of peer review, it's very possible your next paper is reviewed quickly.*

It sounds like what happened to your paper was that they tried to find reviewers for it, but repeatedly failed. This doesn't happen often, but it does happen. Only thing you can do about that is write more interesting papers so people are more interested to review it (very helpful advice, I know).

*An exception applies to MDPI journals, which tend to be very fast because the journal staff (not editorial board members) handle the reviewer invitations. Full-time editorial staff speeds up peer review by a lot because they will react immediately when a reviewer decline, and continuously invite reviewers when they don't respond. This shows in the fact that MDPI's average reviewers invited are 2-2.5x more than other journals. The tradeoff is that review quality is relatively poor - last I looked there's a roughly 50% chance your paper is reviewed by someone without direct subject expertise. But don't listen to Bryan Krause when he says things like "the journal just wants it published so they can get their fee". The great bulk of these papers also have waived APCs, and there is no fee.

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  • It's just among many journals, in all my cases where a paper has been rejected before review, it happened within a week or two. Only two journals have taken more than a month, and both from Wiley. Maybe it's just a coincidence, I don't know. This particular paper is somewhat "boring", but I'm guided by what works have already been published in journals, so this one seemed to fit the journal. But even if a paper doesn't fit a journal, the author shouldn't have to wait 13 months. I was under the false impression that review was ongoing and it was worth waiting for, but it wasn't the case.
    – Dmitry
    Jan 21 at 17:00
  • What happens at MPDI journals is, in my opinion, much worse. So even this unpleasant experience is still better than MDPI (and similar predatory or semi-predatory publishers).
    – Dmitry
    Jan 21 at 17:03
  • @Dmitry I'd recommend against drawing conclusions based on a sample size of two. As for whether the review was ongoing - it's very common to say a manuscript is under review once it passes desk review. Some publishers distinguish between 'reviewers invited' and 'under review', but that's not a reliable difference because the publisher cannot tell if the reviewers are actually reviewing the article until the review is submitted. 'Worth waiting for' is even more difficult because I doubt even the reviewer knows if the review is worth waiting for, until they read the article.
    – Allure
    Jan 22 at 2:12
  • I also highly doubt you know what happens at MDPI journals - most people don't, including me (and I had years of experience in publishing) - so I'd recommend against drawing conclusions on flimsy data.
    – Allure
    Jan 22 at 2:14

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