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We submitted an article to a SCI Elsevier journal. The Elsevier website has clearly mentioned that submission to first decision takes 4.5 weeks, submission to final decision takes 4.7 weeks and acceptance to citable online takes 7.2 weeks.
After 60 days of submission I sent an inquiry email and editor replied just one line that the review process will take at least 1 year. I selected this journal based on IF, Q factor and most importantly the review process was quick. After hearing editor's response I decided to withdraw the article and submit it to other fast track journal.

  • Is it a valid reason to withdraw the under review article (as the wrong information was conveyed by the journal)?
  • Any suggestion how should I compose my email for withdrawal?
  • Is it possible the editor might refuse the withdrawal request?
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    I have a very hard time believing that they actually gave those numbers as absolute rather than stating their averages (.24 of a week is not even close to a whole number of days).. – Tobias Kildetoft Dec 16 '16 at 10:25
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    Where does it say anything about the standard deviation of those numbers? Why would it be unacceptable to wait more than 40% longer than the average? – Tobias Kildetoft Dec 16 '16 at 10:30
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    Why would they be based on anything but actual data? Why would the policies of another journal be relevant? – Tobias Kildetoft Dec 16 '16 at 10:37
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    I find the answer of the editor surprising. The only field where I heard of review process in the one year range is in maths, and even there it's the on the longer side. – Cape Code Dec 16 '16 at 10:45
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    @CapeCode I do agree that the reply is strange. Even in math, the long reviews are usually not such that the editor would know this well in advance that they will be so long. – Tobias Kildetoft Dec 16 '16 at 10:47
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You may withdraw your paper at any point (unless copyright has been transfered). Is this case this even seems like a good option. Although the numbers on review time on the homepage are averages, I find it highly disturbing that the editor gives such a large estimate that early. How can he know the he will need more than 10 month from now to form his decision? If he has some reason to believe so, shouldn't he try to keep review times short if his journal advertises short review times? Many reputed journals I know work hard, publisher and editorial board together, to keep their review times as small as possible, and here seems to be one editor who doesn't care.

To answer the questions: Yes you can withdraw at any time of the review process. Such an estimate of the review time is a valid reason. To withdraw your paper you just write an email to the handling editor stating that you withdraw the paper. You do not have to give specific reasons and you may resubmit the paper somewhere else right away. The editor can not refuse the request as (usually) nothing has been signed which prohibits withdrawal.

5

This is not uncommon, as finding good and timely reviewers is becoming more and more challenging (e.g. Kovanis et al, PLOS ONE 2016), and it is difficult to improve time to review and publication (e.g. Bruce et al, BMC Medicine 2016). In your specific case, most likely the times to review and publication are either not updated or average estimates not truly representative of the variability of their reviewing process.


Is it a valid reason to withdraw the under review article (as the wrong information was conveyed by the journal)?

Definitely yes: unless the journal is the best one in your field, it appears it is poorly managed or having a very hard time finding good and timely reviewers, and thus I would choose another scholarly venue.


Any suggestion how should I compose my email for withdrawal?

This is what I write when having similar issues:

Dear Editor

I am writing to informing you that I am irreversibly withdrawing my manuscript entitled "xxx" from your consideration, as I am going to resubmit it elsewhere.

The main reason is that I have been very disappointed by the poor handling of the manuscript and the delay in reviewing it.

Please do not consider it any longer for publication in your journal.

Yours truly

XXX


Is it possible the editor might refuse the withdrawal request?

Definitely no, if you are clear in your email.

  • 2
    Good answer...it is indeed very common. I know a prestigious IEEE journal that has exactly this sort of problem. Yet they are the best, and what can you do? Considering that one of the editors of this journal even plagiarized some submitted manuscript by purposefully delaying the review process and eventually rejecting it, while exploiting its idea in one of his/her own papers (and he got away with it, obviously), PO is in a far better situation. – Troy Woo Dec 16 '16 at 11:07
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    @TroyWoo And you of course have plenty of supporting evidence for this anecdote, rather than it just being an urban myth? – Tobias Kildetoft Dec 16 '16 at 11:09
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    This seems much more combative than required. 1 year of review is long, but certainly does not indicate "poor handling" or justify being "very disappointed" with anybody. If I as an editor would get this mail, my main impression would be that the author is not very familiar with academia and the typical time frames of thorough review (to be honest, this is also an impression I got from the question in general). – xLeitix Dec 16 '16 at 11:33
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    @xLeitix I agree with most of that, but I also do think something here is a little off, as the editor should usually not know after 60 days that the review will take a full year (that would mean that among all the potential reviewers he could think of for the paper, only one would accept and that person said it would take a year). – Tobias Kildetoft Dec 16 '16 at 11:38
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    Sure, those averages would be unusual in math. As I said, I agree that it is reasonable to withdraw the paper. But the way the OP has laid out the situation has him come off as not really understanding what the stated numbers mean. – Tobias Kildetoft Dec 16 '16 at 11:57
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  1. [Is it a legitimate reason to pull a paper because review is taking too long] Yes.

  2. [How to write email.] "We withdraw our paper. Thank you for your work so far." Do NOT fall into the urge to explain, defend, etc. Just pull it.

  3. [Will the editor refuse to let us pull it.] No. He can't publish it without your agreement and you can resist any eventual review comments with "we pulled that paper". Seriously, just save the email, but you are fine.

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