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I have submitted a mathematical-physics manuscript to Journal of Mathematical Physics, and I am in a situation similar to the one described here: It has been two months since I submitted, and the editor still cannot find reviewers. I have asked the editor what happens if he/she keeps trying and will still be unable find any reviewer, but he/she refuses to answer me.

The manuscript is in the field of celestial mechanics and is quite specific. However, two months seems a pretty long time to me, and I am incline to think that this is the journal's fault, i.e., the journal or editor is not known enough, he/she does not have a good network of referees, and I feel that I am wasting my time and should withdraw my submission and submit it to another journal.

Do you concur with this? According to your experience, what is the best decision to make sure that the manuscript is published in a reasonable time in this journal, or in another journal with similar impact?

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    In Pure mathematics two months seems pretty short. Are you sure you will get a faster review to another journal? – Arctic Char Aug 16 '17 at 8:46
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    I agree with John Ma, two months is not exceptionally long in mathematics. In particular in sommer it also plays a role that many people are either travelling or on vacation, which makes things move a bit slower. – Pieter Naaijkens Aug 16 '17 at 8:48
  • What would be the alternative to waiting? If you withdraw the paper, what will you do with it afterwards? Just withdrawing it and having it sitting idly on your desk instead of the editors desk wouldn't solve anything. – Dirk Aug 16 '17 at 9:07
  • The alternative would be to submit it elsewhere, I edited the question to clarify this. – user69728 Aug 16 '17 at 11:06
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    If the field is so narrow, I feel it should be asked: have other papers in that niche been published in that journal in the last few years? – Jon Custer Aug 16 '17 at 11:34
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Some reviewers reply to invitations slowly or not at all. Worse, some reviewers initially promise to review, then later change their mind (there can be good¹ or bad reasons for this). Worst, some initially promise to review but are then never heard from again. The job of the (associate) editor is to somehow handle all of this, and since reviews are voluntary there's very little the editor can do.

I was recently a reviewer on a paper that was slow. The review of my co-reviewer never materialised, and other invitees either ignored the invitation or declined. After several months, the editor, fed up, sent out 17 invitations in a single day. 6 declined the same day. 6 declined up to 2 weeks later. 4 never replied. 1 accepted and delivered the review. Ultimately, the discussion phase was extended almost 3 months beyond what was originally planned.

Bottom line: don't read too much into the review being slow. Although some publishers communicate some details to authors, most don't. Just wait. Solving this problem is the editor's responsibility, not yours.


¹A colleague agreed to review a paper (his first) based on the abstract. When he received it it was almost 100 pages long. I think he sent it back with a short note along the lines of I can't review this, please shorten it or write a book instead. I don't know what happened to the paper in the end.

  • Dear gerrit, thank you for your answer. I agree that I should 'just wait', but the question is: how long? There is a limit beyond which it is no longer worth waiting, and my question is what is this limit. It has been more than four months now. – user69728 Oct 22 '17 at 11:59
  • @James You can ask the editor. If one or more reviewers are already working on it they may end up quite annoyed if you withdraw it now. If the editor has failed to chase up potential reviewers and no reviewers have even been assigned yet, you could consider resubmitting to a journal where editors are faster to find reviewers. – gerrit Oct 22 '17 at 14:23
  • @gerrit I'm having the same issue OP was having with the same journal - totally different field though. I can't help but wonder if JMP is having issues with referees committing to review. – Cameron Williams Nov 17 '17 at 18:59
  • After soliciting the editor, they finally found some one who agreed to review. This does not guarantee that he/she will do it, but it still good news. – user69728 Nov 29 '17 at 13:12

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