Don’t just sit and wait for peer reviews to come back: Write to editors and get involved!
In our emails this morning was a message from a Chinese colleague who had submitted a paper to the journal one of us edits:
‘Dear <<name>>: I am sorry to disturb you. It has been three months since the submission of manuscript, and I began to wonder what is going on with it. Could you please check with the reviewers? I am looking forward to the comments’.
We find that relatively few authors choose to take this approach, but writing to an editor if you feel too much time has passed between submission and the return of reviews is absolutely the right thing to do. Why?
Why - and when - you should write to editors
Keep in mind that the average time from submission to publication online is about 90 days. We recommend that if more than two months pass and you do not hear anything back from the journal, it’s time to write to the editor and politely ask for an update. We can provide you with a template for writing an email like this; keep it short, to the point (as in the example at the top of this article that we received this morning), and make it positive. Offer to help.
‘Dear Editor. I hope you are doing well. I’m writing about our recently submitted paper <<add manuscript number and title here>>. More than two months have passed since this article was first submitted and so my co-authors and I were wondering if there was anything we could do to speed up the process with your journal? Here are some additional suggestions for suitable colleagues who might act as peer reviewers.’
We find that if you offer to help, add some more suggestions for peer reviewers, for example, then the editor will find your letter to be positive rather than just pestering them to move the paper faster through the system. This is because, almost certainly, the reason that your paper is taking some time is that the journal editorial team have experienced issues finding suitable (or willing) reviewers. Suggestions are always welcome. You don’t have time to wait: research projects are almost always time-limited, especially if this is your PhD or postdoc. You need published results and you need them as quickly as possible.
Keep in mind that journal editors are usually busy, working academics who handle manuscripts in their spare time while also writing their own papers, performing research, supervising students, and attending meetings at their home universities. Only the bigger, higher impact journals tend to have full-time dedicated editorial teams.
Communicating effectively with editors and reviewers for your paper
Effective communication with editors and reviewers during the manuscript submission, revision and acceptance processes is key to efficient journal publication. We can teach you how to communicate better in order to make sure your papers move expeditiously and you achieve the outcomes you want in your target journals of choice.
At the end of our workshops (booked via academic institutions), we always emphasise the fact that you will get your work published in a good journal if you picked an important research question, used the right method and wrote a concise, clear account of your research that uses accurate and effective English.
Our training courses and online materials emphasise effective English writing and communication skills: how to write up and publish your work efficiently, and manage the submission and publication process. We are able to help with these aspects of writing and publishing because our team have deep experience actually publishing high profile papers themselves as well as managing journal workflows from the editorial perspective.