The Paper Wait: Is Time between Submission and Publication of Scientific Papers Longer than Ever?
Time between submission and publication seems to be getting longer, doesn't it?
We just got a new paper accepted for publication. Yay!
As I was reviewing the pre-print, I noticed something peculiar. It said:
Date of submission February 2014!
It was now January! 2017!
Is it me...? Or do you think that scientific papers are taking longer to get published?
Looking into this, I found an article in Nature, an analysis of the length of time between submission and acceptance of papers in journals that listed those dates in Pubmed. The article apparently showed that the median "paper wait" time has stayed the same for over 30 years, about 100 days. But this wait time was not the same across all journals. According to the article, journals with the lowest and highest impact factors had the longest wait times. (What the..?!). Does that make sense to you? Let's look at this more closely.
There are journals that do not publish the submission dates on Pubmed, so those would not have been included in the article's analysis. Worse, some journals use the resubmission date rather than the first submission date as their benchmark, potentially skewing the data. The resubmission date can be many months after the date of first submission.
Aha! That explains some of it, no? There are a whole bunch of steps that take place between first submission and resubmission. First, the journal's editor checks to see if the paper is appropriate for their journal. Then, she/he has to find willing and capable reviewers (a task that is increasingly difficult given scientists' busy lives). Then, the reviewers submit their critiques. The authors edit the paper based on those critiques and they draft a separate response detailing the changes. After all that, the authors finally resubmit the paper.
Is this long period between submission-review-revision-resubmission (and sometimes back to reviewers, more revisions, and a second resubmission) discouraging new researchers? In the 30 years since I published my first scientific paper, the 25 years since I first served as a peer-reviewer and the 20 years since I've been on the board of scientific journals, there have been many advancements that make everything in life faster and more immediate. The process of scientific publication does not seem to be one of them.
Or perhaps, is it possible that it just feeels like it takes foreeeveeeeer... because we are now so used to a faster pace of life?
What is your experience with the "paper wait"? Has it changed for you too? Or has it really stayed roughly the same?
Email me your "paper waits" for a chance to win a copy of the book: How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper: The Step-by-Step Guide. What is the longest you've had to wait for a paper to go from "first submission" to "accepted for publication"?-- Luz
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Dr. Luz Claudio is an environmental health scientist, mother and consultant, originally from Puerto Rico. She is a tenured professor of environmental medicine and public health. Luz recently published her first book: How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper: The Step-by-Step Guide. Dr. Claudio has internship programs and resources for young scientists. Opinions expressed in this blog are solely her own and may not reflect her employer's views.