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Time scale of peer review

  1. Jan 10, 2012 #1
    I sent a paper in for peer review to the journal "General Relativity and Gravitation" 30/10 2011. On 12/11 2011 they sent it out for peer review. Then 5/12 2011 they sent it out for peer review again, obviously one of the referees could not make up his mind or something so they sent it to a third guy.

    I have not heard anything since, and on Friday the paper have been on peer review for two months. Would it be rude of me to contact the journal and ask them how things are going?

    I am guessing that two months on peer review without coming to any preliminary conclusion is slightly longer than usual. I am making some rather strong claims so I can understand if they want to do some extra verification for that reason.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 10, 2012 #2


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    Peer-review can take a while. You should recognize that the referees are generally busy specialists, and they have their own careers to pursue. Also, if a referee feels unqualified to judge your paper, they can ask that it be shown to another referee whose qualifications might make him/her better able to judge.

    You can ask, but it won't speed up the process as outlined above.
  4. Jan 10, 2012 #3

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    Peer review can take months.

    If this is your first paper and you are making "strong claims", expect it to take longer than average.
  5. Jan 10, 2012 #4


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    I have no experience with the specific journal that you've mentioned, but I can give you a general outline of the process as I understand it.

    When a journal receives a manuscript, they first assign it to an associate editor. This is largely done using sub-categories of topics that the journal specializes in. Depending on the journal, when you identify keywords or specific areas in the submission process the associate editor is then identified.

    The associate editor then reviews the manuscript and identifies experts in the field as reviewers. The AEs can sometimes take a week or two just to do this - they have day jobs too. Sometimes before this even happens there is an initial QA review - just to make sure that all the figures are readable etc, and even that can take several days. it sounds like in your case it took about 2 weeks to get to this stage, which is pretty reasonable.

    Once reviewers have been identified, they have to agree to conduct the review and then have 2-3 weeks to do it. At this stage the AE can sometimes run into problems with people not responding to email. So after a couple of weeks without response, they have to move on and find someone else.

    The 2-3 week deadline is soft. Reviewers are volunteers. It's not like the AE can penalize them for being late with a review. The best the AE can do is pester the referees with emails or if the process drags out too long, find someone else and maybe not use that particular referee again. It's not unreasonable to expect the process to take approximately one month.

    Then the AE has to read the reviews, weigh the comments and make a decision. Sometimes this is straight forward, sometimes it can require correspondence with the reviewers for clarification. Again, something else that can take a week or so.

    So, overall, two months is not an unreasonable time for the process, considering also that lots of people take holidays over December and January.

    You should probably talk to your supervisor about when an appropriate time would be to contact the journal for a status update.
  6. Feb 3, 2012 #5
    Thank you for your answers. I did send an email some day ago asking if I could get some kind of status report on what is going on, if a referee is a bit slow or something. A person I know from my university studies who is active in the field and who has published a lot of articles thougt that it would be appropriate.

    Still waiting for a preliminary response though... My paper is pretty straightforward. Basically I make one assumption that is really new, plus a few reinterpretations and then after doing some calculations, which should be pretty straightforward at this level for an average referee to check out for himself, I get some interesting results.

    The results may seem "to strong to be true", I am at least hoping that is part of the reason why it is taking so long. That they feel the need to check it out extra carefully.
  7. Feb 3, 2012 #6


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    I have had it take over 10 months on a completely correct 8 page paper of mine. I myself got an enquiry after 7 months, when I was refereeing a 50 page paper for someone else. I was the third referee they tried. The paper made many references to two more of the author's own 90 page papers, but without any specific page references, as if we were supposed to be intimately familiar with his prior work.

    Often a long time means the referee put off starting it for a long time then had trouble reading it quickly. Or it could mean its hard to read and he's busy. Remember a research scholar has essentially no free time, and this is volunteer work often sent during the busiest part of the year.
  8. Feb 21, 2012 #7
    Darn, yesterday, after 100 days in the referee stage, they sent it out to another referee. I guess he also will have to get a month or so to come to a conclusion.

    My paper is 16 pages all in all, which is of course more than 8. Much of it is comparizons with other methods and the real hardcore theory part is more like 3 and a half page so it should not take so much time to check the derivations...
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