33

Few days ago I received an email from the associate editor. He apologized for my paper has mistakenly been left outside of the normal review process. This happened almost 14 months after my submission. I asked the journal editor for information on the status of the review process about 7 months ago and received an email from the technical staff that my status is "in review" as can be seen in Editorial Manager system. The journal is highly ranked and the review process usually takes a long time. So, I thought everything was ok. The associate editor is asking me now if I still want to proceed this submission. Should I say yes?

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    Half out of interest, half to estimate how those times compare: What is your field? – Wrzlprmft Jul 5 '15 at 5:44
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    Civil engineering. – Alex Jul 5 '15 at 8:00
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    i'm not advocating this, just wondering... hypothetically, this blunder could stop an important publication and affect someone's career prospects and earnings. is there any case for litigation? has it ever happened? – innisfree Jul 6 '15 at 13:48
70
+250

Unfortunately, these things happen, and it sounds like the journal is at least being appropriately apologetic.

If you go do a different journal, you'll be starting all over again. If this is a good journal for your field, and you think it's an honest mistake, then I would instead recommend asking for an expedited review process. Since the editors are acknowledging they messed things up, you are likely to get faster and better consideration from them than another equivalent peer journal.

So: be collegial and gracious about their mistake, and next time you'll have good reason for when you send an earlier status query.

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    jakebeal offers good advice. After 26 months with no reviews a new editor came on board and published my article very quickly. You may not have similar luck at a new journal... – aldrichsteve Jul 5 '15 at 4:17
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    The apology seems to be sincere but was given by the associate editor. The (new) editor in chief has not commented on this. – Alex Jul 5 '15 at 7:59
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    @Alex If it's a decent journal behaving honestly, that distinction makes no difference. – jakebeal Jul 5 '15 at 10:16
  • I'm not sure it counts as "starting all over again" when the first journal has explicitly admitted to it never having been started in the first place. – zibadawa timmy Jul 7 '15 at 4:24
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    You should just say yes. If you submit to another journal you have to start the submission process again. The figures might need reformatting. The references will be in a different format. The section headings have to be redone. It is like starting again. – Mark Jul 9 '15 at 2:48
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Many years ago, a colleague and I sent out a paper for publication. My colleague did the actual work of submission. Six months later, he told me he had not received an acknowledgement of receipt from the journal. For this reason, he wondered if he had actually submitted the paper, or whether he had just prepared the submission, but forgotten to mail it.

So I said I would handle it. I resubmitted the paper to the same journal, explaining in a very honest cover letter how we weren't sure if we had submitted it already.

About a week or two later, my colleague received a reply from the journal telling him that the paper had been rejected. Not only had it been rejected, but it hadn't even been sent out for review because the paper was in a subject in which the journal didn't publish.

Now the punchline:

A couple of days later, I received a glowing acceptance letter! And it was obvious from the detailed comments in the report that the reviewer had read the paper very carefully!

Even though this story sounds like an urban legend, this really happened to me! You just don't know what will transpire! Go ahead and give the journal another chance. Maybe they will give you special treatment.

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    I think how hard this story to believe depends a lot on how much experience one has with the wide, wild world of academic publication. I believe you 100%. :) – Pete L. Clark Jul 5 '15 at 19:05
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    @PeteL.Clark: to further your point, there are studies (at least for CS conferences) suggesting that acceptance is somewhat random, except for really excellent and really horrible papers, because reviewer variability is higher than paper variability. Here's one: dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?doid=1531793.1531815 – Blaisorblade Jul 6 '15 at 17:31
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    "So, corsiKa, explain to me again how your random number generator is built on the foundations of computer science." "Oh yes. Sorry if my documentation was lacking specifics. When you make a request, it generates and submits a decent, but not perfect, paper for review to a CS journal. Response time on the generator is slow, but has proven to meet all randomness tests thrown at it so far." – corsiKa Jul 6 '15 at 17:55
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    Your story is very interesting, but I wouldn't give another chance on a journal based on that. – Emilie Jul 6 '15 at 18:57
  • Really wow :O.. – Paolo Leonetti Mar 23 '16 at 11:24
9

Mistakes happen, no system is perfect, and if nobody is seriously damaged (physically, professionally or in some other way of importance), it is in our interest to allow them, so that we can claim such an allowance for our mistakes, when their time comes, (I apologize for the apparent cynicism, but I am an economist)... let alone of it being the peaceful thing to do.

But this does not mean that the entity that makes the mistake is free to not do anything about it, apart from apologizing. The apology may be sincere, but I would accept it as effective, if it has been accompanied by something along the lines of

"It goes without saying that, if you still want to move on with this submission, we will make every effort to expedite it as much as possible, without compromising the quality of the review process"

...which would mean, contacting reviewers, persuade them to shift priorities, explain why, etc. One should go some distance in correcting/mitigating the effects of, one's own mistakes.

  • What has happened was that the Editor in Chief was changed. So, it seems that the journal is taking steps to ensure it doesn't happen again. – Alex Jul 22 '15 at 9:57

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