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I submitted my paper one week ago to a journal and I want to cancel my submission. Is it possible?

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    I don't see any reason why it shouldn't be possible. The usual terminology is to withdraw the paper (rather than cancel the submission), but it amounts to the same thing. Dec 8, 2015 at 12:50
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    @EnergyNumbers: Why would the answer crucially depend on the specifics of the journal/submission system? There are only two possibilities to consider: Withdrawal is integrated into the submission system or it isn’t.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Dec 8, 2015 at 13:28
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    @Wrzlprmft or it's a negotiation with the editor. And co-authors. And possibly the funding body. Fees may or may not have been paid. etc.
    – 410 gone
    Dec 8, 2015 at 13:37
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    @EnergyNumbers: or it's a negotiation with the editor – I do not want to exclude this possibility but that does not inflate the possible turns of events. — and co-authors – I would assume by default that the OP is acting on their behalf — Fees may or may not have been paid. – After one week? That’s extremely unlikely, unless there are any pay-to-publish journals where you pay before the review process. — Note that while the lack of details makes this question bad, I cannot see that it does not result in any problem with possible answers and thus I see no reason for closing this question.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Dec 8, 2015 at 13:59
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    @Wrzlprmft asking for publication fees prior to acceptance sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. Though definitely something a predatory journal might try. I really hope that no reputable journal does this.
    – Moriarty
    Dec 8, 2015 at 14:41

2 Answers 2

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It's certainly possible. You can withdraw a submission at any point until it has been accepted and you have signed the publishing agreement. You might upset the editor, but there's absolutely no way they will try to forbid you from withdrawing the paper. The worst case scenario is that they will remember you as a flake who wasted their time with an inappropriate submission. (Of course, that's not a good outcome.)

You should not plan on resubmitting the paper to the same journal, at least not if the social conventions in your field are like the ones I'm familiar with from mathematics. There might not be a formal rule against it, but it would look really strange, and you'd get reactions along the lines of "What are you doing? You had your shot at publishing the paper in this journal, you deliberately withdrew it, and you wasted everyone's time in the process. Now you want to start again?" (Only it would probably be stated less confrontationally.) I doubt they would accept a resubmission unless it was a really important paper.

The disadvantage of withdrawing a submission after just a week is that it looks flaky, like you couldn't be bothered to check the paper carefully enough last week to detect the problem. On the other hand, the longer you wait, the more time may be wasted by reviewers. If you know you need to withdraw the paper, it's better to do it early than to delay.

Note that everyone will assume you withdrew the submission because of a serious problem with the paper. If there's a minor problem, correctable without important consequences, then you could submit a revised version instead of withdrawing the paper. (That would still look a little flaky, but less so.)

If there's no problem with the paper itself, but you just changed your mind about where to submit it, then you'll really annoy the editors and reviewers. You shouldn't do it without a compelling reason, and I'd recommend not pointing out that you merely changed your mind (since there's no sense in adding insult to injury). This would make sense under some circumstances, for example if you discovered you accidentally chose a predatory journal, but under ordinary circumstances it would really look bad. You could still do it, but I wouldn't advise it unless you feel you really made a dreadful mistake in choosing the journal.

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    +1. "The disadvantage of withdrawing a submission after just a week is that it looks flaky" - personal anecdote here: recently, I circulated a manuscript for comments, did get some, incorporated these, submitted... and one day after submission, I got comments from one guru that pretty much blew the paper away, but suggested a way forward. I immediately withdrew the submission, spent a few more weeks on the paper, submitted a new version (to the same journal), getting a major revision and finally acceptance two days ago. (I'm pretty certain the guru was one reviewer, which made perfect sense.) Dec 8, 2015 at 17:54
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    Last night at dinner a friend told me that in his youth he submitted a paper to Math. Ann. because he thought it was the same journal as Ann. of Math. Indeed he withdrew the paper upon learning of his mistake. Dec 8, 2015 at 18:07
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Any reputable journal will provide some way for authors to withdraw their papers.

  • For journals with an online submission system, there will typically be an option within the same online system: if you click on "current submissions" there will be an option to withdraw it.
  • If there is no direct online method, then you can email the editors.

While these options are rarely exercised, every reputable journal will have such an option in order to allow for the exceptional cases, such as a group discovering a major error after they have submitted their manuscript.

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