24 September 2012
By Sandrine Berges
We all feel the pressure of publishing. Sometimes that pressure is applied directly to us: we need to write more, write better, work harder on revising papers when they come back with a verdict of 'maybe'.
Sometimes, there's nothing we can do. I have one particular paper that has been with a journal editor for over nine months. Last week, I received a note from the editorial assistant stating that the paper was with one referee and that that referee was late and had been sent a reminder. Before that, my paper was with the editor. Padding his desk chair, no doubt.
Of course, I sent inquiries. After three months, six months, and then more regularly. The editorial assistant politely fobbed me off everytime. But I could tell that there was simply nothing he could do about it. The editor had decided that his chair was more comfortable with my paper on it, and that was it. His assistant was powerless.
After a while I felt embarassed. Why harrass this young person, probably a graduate student, when there is clearly nothing they can do? Is it the assistant's job to keep reminding the editor that they need to work? Is the editor so busy that they can't look at papers they receive and decide whether to send them out to referees or not?
It seems to me that if there are already too many submissions to deal with, a journal should send out an email warning authors that they won't be taking anything on for a few months, i.e. not accepting new submissions until the back log is down to a reasonable size.
But what should the author do? Because I didn't receive very clear answers to my various queries - is my paper out with referees? I am just waiting for a desk rejection? Is anything going to happen soon? - I did not want simply to withdraw my paper and send it somewhere else. I probably should have done that. Especially as there is no reason to expect that simply because the process took so long, there is a better chance that the journal will publish my paper in the end!
What would you do in those circumstance?
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