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We've submitted a paper to a well known journal, but it's been more than one year without a reply, despite multiple e-mails sent to the editors. We got a reply once, just pointing to another editor which did not answer our requests.

Just to clarify:

  • aug/2014: paper submission;
  • mar/2015: first e-mail sent to editor (no reply);
  • may/2015: second e-mail sent to editor, which answered pointing to another sub-editor and saying that the delay might be caused by a late reviewer;
  • jun/2015: e-mail sent to sub-editor asking for clarifications about the delay (no reply);
  • aug/2015: e-mail sent to editor and sub-editor asking for news about our paper (no reply);
  • oct/2015: again, another e-mail for both editors (no reply), and we even asked to confirm the receipt, without reply either.

What is the next thing we should do? I guess that withdraw our submission is the logical step, but we don't want to lose all this time of reviewing without any feedback and knowing that our paper was probably reviewed by one or two reviewers, and it could be near completion.

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    I'm sorry that you're having this frustrating experience. Have you written to the editor in chief / managing editor of the journal? Have you tried calling any of the editors at a work number? – Pete L. Clark Oct 19 '15 at 17:05
  • Yes, the editor is in fact the chief editor of the journal. But I haven't tried calling him - it's an international call, but I will work it out. Thanks. – Chaotic Oct 20 '15 at 0:59
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    @Chaotic I am also going through the similar situation and was about to asked the same question. It was really frustrating when we don't get any responses of our mails from the Editors of the journal. – srijan Nov 22 '15 at 6:03
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First thing first, I would suggest planning to never submit to this journal again. Some journals take a very long time to review, and in some fields more than a year of reviewing is not uncommon. Editors, however, should be reasonably responsive to email and months without reply is not reasonable.

Although, there is one case where it might be reasonable: it might be that all of your email has been going into their spam filter. You don't say where you are from, but there can be problems of this type: I recently had an experience where some international colleagues had their entire domain blacklisted by anti-spam systems and it made every interaction very painful and difficult.

Either way, at this point, you've basically got two options for escalation in attempting to find out the status of your paper:

  1. Make contact via another medium than email, preferably by phone so you can get a human on the line.
  2. If that fails, get in touch with the publisher and let them know what's going on with their journal.

You also need to be more persistent in your attempts to contact: emailing once every two months and just taking no response as your answer is really letting things slide.

If all of this fails, then you're stuck with an unpalatable choice: leave the paper in limbo or withdraw. Neither is a particularly good option, but neither is the end of the world, either.

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Have you checked the online tracking system of the journal to see if the status or the status date has changed recently? If the status has been 'under review' for a long time, but the status date is fairly recent, it would indicate that the editor or reviewers have accessed the system more recently. This is a positive sign, showing that there is some activity around your paper. However, if there has not been any change in the status date for a long time, it means that your paper has been lying idle.

In the former scenario, it might help if you try to contact the journal over phone or by sending more frequent emails. However, if your paper has not been accessed for a long time, it would be better to consider withdrawing it.

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