7

My paper has been under review for 2.5 months now at PLoS ONE. I am still waiting for the first review result.

I have sent three inquiries to ask about the progress, and all the responses were telling me that the paper is out for review and PLoS ONE is doing their best to process my paper efficiently.

In the title of the PLoS ONE website, it writes "accelerating the publication of peer-reviewed science". I am really disappointed. PLoS ONE is the slowest among all the journals to which I have submitted.

My question is, does it still make sense to send additional inquires about the progress to the journal? If it does, what should I write in the inquiry?

===update===

Three months now from the submission, I still have not got the first decision. My case is an example showing Plos One is very slow. If you want to publish something quickly, Plos One is the wrong choice! Indeed, it is the slowest among all the journals I have submitted to.

===update===

Just got the first decision a few days ago. i.e. The first decision is made around 3 months after submission. The review results are very simple and positive actually, simply asking to cite more references and add some discussions. Still can not understand though why so simple and straightforward review comments need 3 months to conceive!

  • 5
    Two and a half months is slow for journal publication? – wchargin Mar 4 '15 at 2:00
  • 5
    I have never received an initial decision within 6 months of submission. – Marc Claesen Mar 4 '15 at 10:44
  • 3
    three years is my record! – Dikran Marsupial Mar 4 '15 at 13:06
  • 1
    @Leo Sorry, that's probably only your impression. In almost all of math, waiting for less than half a year is a miracle. – yo' Mar 4 '15 at 13:34
  • 1
    @MarcClaesen this is highly field-dependent. In life sciences 2.5 months is slowish, especially for something like PLoS ONE (but not unheard of). – Bitwise Mar 4 '15 at 16:25
13

PLOS One are pretty good at hassling editors to get a move on (I know, I am one) and if an editor doesn't move on a paper, they will reassign it to a new editor. So I don't think asking what's happening will help.

The usual reason for delays is reviewers. You ask someone to review. They don't reply. They are reminded. After two weeks, you give up and try to find a new reviewer. You invite them to review. After one week they agree. Two weeks later a reminder is sent. A week after that another reminder is sent. A week after that you give up and invite a new reviewer. We are at two months, and we don't have a reviewer yet.

The one thing that you might do to help is suggest reviewers. You might be aware of people who are working in the area that the editor may not know about (for example, because you have seen them present at a conference).

  • If I'm ever sent a reminder after only 2 weeks, the immediate response will be probably a decline of reviewing the paper. I know other people who feel it similar. Do you really annoy your reviewers with spam so early? – yo' Mar 4 '15 at 13:36
  • @yo' - I've clarified, the system is automatic. I don't send anything. :) When an editor invites someone, there is a box to say when the review is due. The PLoS one default is 10 days, and after that the reviewer will get a reminder saying that the review is late. I always change it to something more reasonable. – Jeremy Miles Mar 4 '15 at 18:02
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    @yo' I would assume that the reminder is simply to check if the reviewer wants to agree to do the review not to get the actual review itself. Maybe it's a matter of different standards but I'd probably consider a contact useless if they can't even reply to an e-mail within a few days to a week at most. – Lilienthal Mar 4 '15 at 19:02
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    @Lilienthal Ah it seems I'm dyslexic, I misread the bit. My apologies. – yo' Mar 4 '15 at 19:23
  • @JeremyMiles Thanks for the explanation. A simple thing you can do is to reassign the paper to another reviewer after just few days, instead of waiting for 2 weeks. – DavideChicco.it Oct 12 '18 at 19:14
10

Chasing the journal again doesn't seem like a good idea - you'll almost certainly get the same email back. Most PLOS papers are still out for review at this stage, so annoying though it is for you, it's not unusual for them!

As of mid-2013, the mean time to publication acceptance in PLOS One was 134 days (~4.5 months) with a median time of 100 days (~3.5 months). Anecdotally I don't believe it's got much longer or shorter since then, so 2.5 months seems entirely normal.

  • 1
    I am not sure about PLOS One, but time to publication/acceptance is generally very different from time to getting the first reviews back since usually you will need to make revisions and have the paper reviewed again, – StrongBad Mar 4 '15 at 10:07
  • Good point. (This was acceptance, I've corrected my error). PLOS One claim a time-to-first-decision of around 30-35 days per journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/… (see table S1), which is low but by no means remarkable, and will of course include any papers immediately rejected. This one presumably survived that first pass... – Andrew Mar 4 '15 at 10:12
5

I don't know about your field, but 2 1/2 months doesn't strike me as particularly long. I realize that in part you feel that their reference to being speedier than others seems now like false advertising; still.

I would not push more too soon, but if and when you do, I wouldn't ask "Is it ready?", but something like "I realize that the paper is out for review, and so out of your (=editor's) hands. I don't mean to keep stepping on your feet, but is there any way in which I could help speed turnaround up; and if not, do you have any idea when the reviews might be in, based on your experience with the referees?"

4

I think PLoS ONE's "accelerating" tagline has more to do with their open-access philosophy than the time to publication. My two experiences publishing there took 5 months and 8 months from submission to acceptance---that's still pretty fast compared to many journals, but nothing remarkable. Just leave it be for a little while and don't worry unless you go 4 months without receiving reviews.

2

Is it 2.5 months under review or 2.5 months since submission? If the latter, how long did it take to get an editor assigned (i.e. to change to 'With Editor') and when did it go out for review (i.e. status changed to 'Under Review')? In my experience (not with PLOS ONE but with other PLOS journals), it can take a while to get an editor assigned, which can increase time to first decision. While 2.5 months is fairly slow (life sciences at least), it's not uncommon. There is a big difference between 2.5 months under review and 1.5 months assigning an editor and 1 month under review, so that information would be helpful.

A couple of notes about time to first decision stats.

First is in regards to the answer by @Andrew. A first decision of 30 -35 days at PLOS ONE should not include any desk rejected papers because PLOS ONE's mantra is that importance/impact/sexiness does not matter - all that matters is whether or not the methodology is sound. I've never submitted a paper to PLOS ONE but I presume they send out any legitimate manuscript for review.

Second, time to first decision is usually given as a median not a mean. In effect, a median time to first decision tells you nothing about those papers that take a really long time to review. So a journal could still have a low median time to first decision if it 1. it desk rejects a high proportion of manuscripts, 2. returns some of the manuscripts sent out for review in a reasonable time (unless it rejects a very high proportion), 3. takes absolutely ages for the rest of the manuscripts.

Third, some publishers don't issue major revisions in an attempt to lower their time to acceptance stat. Instead they go with the 'reject with option to resubmit', which allows them to assign a new submission date for your heavily revised manuscript, thereby artificially reducing the time to acceptance.

So I'd take the time to decision stats with a grain of salt.

  • While PLOS presumably don't reject immediately for "this is unexciting", it appears they do reject at least some papers before review, and that proportion is increasing - see eg/ blog.scienceopen.com/2014/07/article-vs-journal-impact - "Most notably we have seen an increase in the rejection rate ... We put all our papers through rigorous checks at submission, including ethical oversight, data availability, adherence to reporting guidelines, and so more papers are rejected before being sent for review." [Damian Pattinson] – Andrew Mar 6 '15 at 9:07
  • It is the review process that is very slow. Plos One actually was pretty quick to sent my paper to review (state changes to under review) in a few days. – Changwang Zhang Mar 6 '15 at 9:51
1

Usually three months are needed to wait for any inquiry form any journal about status of paper, but it is common, journals take more than 3 months of reviewing a paper. This is due to duration, which usually reviewers keep paper for reviewing .

1

You have already written to the journal thrice within a span of two and half months, which I think could be bothersome to many journals. Two and a half months is really not too long for the review process to get completed. In fact, it might take the journal that much time just to get reviewers. Yet, the journal has responded politely and positively each time. I think you should not write again, but just wait patiently for the decision.

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