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Back in spring 2016, I submitted a manuscript for publication. I revised the manuscript in winter 2016 and have been waiting for reviews since then. Two of the three reviewers responded in a timely manner, while the third has consistently delayed their response. This delay has been going on for almost half a year. I have been patiently waiting and in communication with the editor. The editor has sent numerous reminders and personal emails to the third reviewer to send their re-review, but nothing has come out of these efforts. The editor recently sent out the manuscript to a new 3rd reviewer who is considered more ‘reliable’ but the deadline has passed.

During this time, I received an email to review a new manuscript submitted to a large journal with similar research, methods and analyses used. I feel that this other manuscript will scoop my research that has been sitting for nearly a year and been delayed continuously.

As an aside, in Winter 2016 I saw a collaborator present research similar to mine (in terms of methodology used). This methodology has not been applied in my field until I put together my manuscript. I was surprised to see this in their presentation at a conference and was confused by how they knew what I was working on (it didn’t share with them). This is speculative, but my best guess (and this is also based on this person’s track record with others) is that they had access to my manuscript that was under review. The new manuscript that surfaced this past week doesn't include this person as a coauthor, but it seems likely that they encouraged these authors to use methods and research similar to mine.

For me personally, I want to see the manuscript published with an acceptance date that precedes this new manuscript. I notified the editor and they alerted the chief editor, but nothing has been done yet to rectify the situation. Typically, two reviews are required for this journal, but a third volunteered, and as a result, my manuscript requires three reviewers and not two. The editor and chief editor acknowledge the seriousness of the issue, but I don’t know if/how to encourage them to take further action rather than continuing to wait for a response to the third reviewer. I feel like this approach has been overused in my circumstance and has not produced anything out of it. I would like to move forward with the response from the two reviewers, but I don’t know if that is possible or how to suggest this to the chief editor.

Is there anything else that you recommend I do to rectify this situation?

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    You can make pre-prints available without peer-review prior to publishing the peer-reviewed version. – user2768 Apr 18 '17 at 14:47
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    Sorry, I'm not familiar with that process. What do you mean by pre-prints? I am still waiting to hear a 'yes' your manuscript is accepted to this journal. And, what would I use these pre-prints for? To say, have my adviser indirectly recommend that the other manuscript cite my work? – user3052817 Apr 18 '17 at 14:52
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    The collaborator presenting similar methodology may not have been aware of your paper at all. Quite often, it is time for a change or addition to the methodology in a given research area. That is a consequence of where recent research has led, and what methodologies are being used in other areas. When it is time, several researchers will independently propose the change and there is a certain amount of luck in which one gets published first. – Patricia Shanahan Apr 18 '17 at 14:54
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    @user3052817, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preprint for an explanation of pre-prints. In essence, you make a draft available online. – user2768 Apr 18 '17 at 15:03
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    It might be relevant to clarify whether your paper than the one that you have been asked to review have both been submitted to the same journal, or different ones. The incentives for the editor could be different. – Flyto Apr 20 '17 at 7:47
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You cannot speed up the publication/review process. Suggesting to an editor that they need to speed up the process because you might get scooped is inappropriate. In the future, you need to choose a journal with a better turn around time. Assuming the majority of the time the manuscript was with the editor/reviewers and not on your desk being revised, you can, and probably should, complain to the journal that their review process is too long. Explain to them you will no longer be submitting to or reviewing for them.

In terms of being scooped, your concern of the other authors having access to your manuscript is a valid one. The editor of your manuscript can easily check if one of the reviewers is an author of the competing. In the case where the reviewer shared the manuscript with one of the competing authors, things are more difficult to "prove". As you only became aware of the competing manuscript as a reviewer (which hopefully you turned down), even talking to the competing authors is difficult. You probably should contact the editor of the competing manuscript as discuss the issues. The editors can then work together to try and resolve the issue.

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    I think contacting the editor is sensible - you would do the same if you only just learned of an important conflict of interest. However, I wouldn't get my hopes up, because 1) most referee delays are for innocuous reasons, and 2) to do enough investigation to pull a referee because of a nondisclosed COI requires a serious time investment on the editor's part. Therefore, PREPRINT! – AJK Apr 18 '17 at 21:37

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