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This question is about inquiring regarding paper status.

I had submitted a paper, and recently I just discovered that the manuscript tracking system shows that the editorial committee has received the referee's report. But, this status has remained for over a week and I still have not heard from the editor handling my paper.

Should I then email the editor as a reminder? Would this act instead be taken as urging?

33

Once reviewers reports have been returned, the editor has to assess the reviews in light of the paper and provide the author with indications on how to proceed. Exactly how this come through will differ between fields and editors. The main point, however, is that a certain amount of work is usually needed to process the reviews before passing the manuscript with comments back to the author. Since editors also handle, sometimes, quite large volumes of papers in parallel, your manuscript will be placed in a queue and the editor will likely take each manuscript in order. In addition, many, if not most, editors do their editing in parallel to ordinary faculty jobs which may at times further limit their available time. It is thus reasonable that this process may take several weeks. In "my" journal we as editors have three weeks for this process before being reminded by the electronic submission system that the manuscript is "due". We often make this deadline, but not always depending n workload.

So, one week is definitely too short a time to expect a response. Three weeks seems to be reasonable in my field but I would maybe allow even additional time to pass. It is probably good to talk to your peers who may have experience with the particular journal and also your field to get feedback on what is considered reasonable.

Added to clarify a comment: it is never "bad" to contact anyone, but it is only fair to allow a a "reasonable" (in the sense of the field and specific journal) amount of time to pass since the early contact will not likely yield anything productive. What, on the other hand, is bad is rather the attitude with which some contacts are made. Insights into appropriate time frames will help to keep communications as fruitful as possible.

  • 1
    @ff524 I think this is a excellent answer (+1 for that). Anyone reading this would understand not to contact the editor (now) and that is bad to do so (now). After an unreasonably long period, what the OP should do is a different question all together. – Alexandros Sep 22 '14 at 10:59
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A week is not a long time for an editor to take a decision. He might need to go through the paper in more detail than previously, in order to check on the reviewers' criticism. It might even be that the reviewers have diverging opinions or brought up some points that need further clarification, so that the editor needs to seek further advice.

If the overall time since the paper has been submitted is still reasonable, I wouldn't inquire at all for the moment. If the paper has also been under review for a long time already, it may be reasonable to wait for another week or two and then inquire about the status of the submission.

An inquiry might be perceived as urging by the editor if he has the feeling that everything is in time with the paper. If the paper has been in review relatively long and you make a general inquiry, it shouldn't leave any bad feelings.

In professionally managed journals, the professional editorial staff would take care of such inquiries without involving the scientific editor at all, so you don't need to really worry in these cases. Just make sure to address the contact point where you got the submission receipt from, and not the editor from the general journal information page.

12

No, there is absolutely no need to send a reminder after one week. The editor might be busy or on vacation or whatever or, maybe, he is deciding that he needs further reviews to decide.

4

When thinking about contacting an editor you need to consider the costs and benefits. In all but the most extreme circumstances (where the editor has completely lost track of your submission), the the editor is not going to be happy about a request for a status update. Responding to status update requests are in general not a huge deal, but they essentially are saying "you are behind and my time is more important than yours". In terms of the benefit, a few more days delay until publication usually has little cost (accept the anxiety knowing a decision is coming). In rare circumstances, a few days can matter a lot. For example, a resubmission where there is a high likelihood that it will be accepted and therefore "in press" and you have a grant deadline (or job application) in the next few days, would have a potentially large payoff. Similarly, a submission that has been stuck in the same state for too long (whatever that means), and there is real worry that the manuscript has gotten lost. It is not unheard of for electronic systems to have bugs or editors to leave or get sick. I would say a week in the final decision stage does not qualify as anywhere near "too long".

2

Echoing other responses, one week is really not all that much time for a paper to be sitting on an editor's desk, and it's not worth sending a query.

The only exception to this is if the paper is expressly on a fast-track publication schedule or some sort of deadline that might matter to the journal is rapidly approaching (for example, the publication of an article on the same day the results are presented at a major conference).

1

The editor has to decipher what the reviewers mean. Few publications use a check-list system, which the most comprehensive and clearest way to handle reviews, so the editor has to figure out whether the reviewers are saying "publish", "modify and resubmit" or "reject completely - unsalavageable".

If you don't hear anything in another week then email the editor saying that you apologise for the intrusion but you've been having problems with your email system and were wondering if an email to you has gone missing.

  • Ah, much appreciated. Strategic! :) – Megadeth Sep 24 '14 at 0:45
  • I think even 2 weeks is being pushy for most systems that consider ~3-4 weeks to be typical. Unless there is something explicitly indicating a short time frame, be patient. – Fred Douglis Sep 24 '14 at 19:50

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