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As a guest editor of an international journal, I was supposed to handle the review process of submitted articles. Two of the reviewers do not respond even after sending couple of reminders. I had clearly mentioned about their availability and timely review process at the beginning. I aware that the reviewers are often very busy with their academic overload. Thus, it is very common about the delay. However, from editor's point of view, it has to be make sure about timely review process. So, it is ethically right to ignore the reviewers and search/assign new set of reviewers?

I have also found that some reviewers do not respond after the 2nd time submissions for a paper suggested for resubmission. Thus I have faced the similar issues with different prospect.

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I disagree slightly with Peter Jansson's answer, which says that you should only search for new reviewers if the ones that you have assigned fail to produce. In my experience, there is a decent chance that at least one of your reviewers will fail to produce a review in a timely fashion, so it is better to plan in advance.

As such, I strongly recommend recruiting slightly more reviewers than are needed for a paper to receive proper review. For example, if a journal requires three reviewers, then you can recruit four. Invite even more than that initially, since it is virtually certain some of the reviewers you initially invite will decline or fail to respond. If, by some chance, all of the reviewers return in a timely fashion, then it's generally not a problem for the authors to get some extra feedback.

Further, never tell a reviewer that you don't need their services until you've got enough reviews to make a decision on a paper. I've had the experience where a newly recruited reviewer fails while a long-delayed reviewer eventually actually turns up with a review. If you dismiss the "presumed failed" reviewer before you've got sufficient reviews in hand, you cut off the possibility of such nice surprises.

  • I already invited more than the minimum required review number. I am wondering if I made decision based on the review response, then how to handle the defaulter (!) reviewer. If I made decision on the paper then he may not able to upload the comments, thus it seems better to inform the reviewer, atleast to be ethically right. Many times reviewers are superior than ourselves, thus it is required to have some decent answer to that person. And for my 2nd query, it becomes very difficult to handle the reviewers agreed to review the resubmitted paper. – Mithun Sep 14 '15 at 15:15
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    @Mithun If you've got enough reviews and information to make an informed decision about the paper, then it's time to tell the reviewer "thank you, but I can't wait any further" and make your decision. – jakebeal Sep 14 '15 at 15:36
  • It is a matter of how you think people perceive being asked from time to time only to be told not to have to do a review. I personally get rather tired of such, in my experience careless, invites. It wastes my time and adds to my already significant mail influx. So I personally prefer to carefully select people I believe will do a review rather than "shooting from the hip" with a shot gun. – Peter Jansson Sep 14 '15 at 18:59
  • @PeterJansson I agree with you in principle, and I think the difference between us is a matter of minor degree based on the expectations and pacing experienced in our different communities. For example, I find my expectations to be much closer to yours in a conference (where people have committed in advance to a clear time window) vs. a journal (which seems to be much easier for the people I deal with to let slip, since it's an unexpected addition to an already-packed schedule). – jakebeal Sep 14 '15 at 19:31
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I would say that it is only right to search for new reviewers if ones you have assigned fail to produce. Even if the persons have agreed to do reviews in advance as seems to be the case. You should of course inform the non-responsive reviewers that you no longer need their reviews so that they do not waste time by providing reviews that are not necessary.

Your priority is to get manuscripts through (or rejected) in a timely fashion, not to wait for non-responsive reviewers. How much time you give non-responsive reviewers is a question of judgement based on the alloted time between submission and expected final revised version (possibly involving, at least in fields I know, two rounds of revisions).

That people do not want to re-review manuscripts is not uncommon. It is up to the reviewer to say whether he or she is interested in doing so. In most electronic submission systems reviewers providing a review are asked if they wish to re-review if that becomes necessary so it is a standard issue.

So, if you think your reviewers are non-responsive look for others and kindly tell the first reviewers their service is no longer needed.

  • Sometimes, due to the electronic submission, the paper automatically goes to the reviewers who initially did the review and suggested for resubmission. And when they were asked to decide if they are available to do the review, the responded positively. However, I do not get the timely review from the reviewers assigned for 2nd time review. – Mithun Sep 14 '15 at 15:48

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