About three weeks ago, I submitted a paper to a highly reputable physics journal. (I had another paper recently published in this journal as well.) I have been checking the status continuously, and today I saw the following as a follow-up to a referee request:

message received (not a report)

I am curious about this status update, as I have never encountered it before. What does this notification mean – rejection of my paper or acceptance? It would be really appreciated if anyone could share experience on this.

  • PRL? The referee probably declined to review the article. The Editor will likely try to find a new referee now. Good luck! – Bubble Jan 5 '16 at 12:43
  • @Bubble Any possible reason why a referee would decline to review? – QuantumGirl Jan 5 '16 at 12:45
  • Most likely time constraints or they don't feel that they're sufficiently knowledgeable in the field to asses the quality of the article. – Bubble Jan 5 '16 at 12:48

It means that they received some communication from the referee other than a report. Different journals have different workflows for referees. Some do not send the manuscript until a referee has agreed to referee the work. Some let the referee see the manuscript and give a short-ish deadline for the referee to decide whether they can eventually send a report. Some other journals (such as the journals of the American Physical Society), send the manuscript and ask for the referee to send them back a report, without ever asking for the confirmation that the referee can do the job.

I suspect the journal works using the second system. This is significant, because the first response that the editor might receive from a referee may be the final report. Or it might not be; the potential referee might write back to decline the assignment or to ask for more time. So it is important to identify whether a response received from the referee is or is not a report--and that's what you are seeing.

  • Thanks heaps for the response. Actually it is a APS journal. Last time when I sent them my manuscript, referees had directly sent the reports (no initial message). Therefore, after seeing this status update I am nervous. :). On the other hand, as per my understanding, this cannot be a rejection, because in that case referee supposed to send a report. – QuantumGirl Jan 5 '16 at 3:56
  • If I am not mistaken, this status message in the APS system can also be caused by referees agreeing to review (which they do not have to). – Wrzlprmft Jan 5 '16 at 9:07

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