Why Does it Take So Long for my Article to Be Published?

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I have asked the Managing Editor to provide me with the statistics for the length of time it takes from submission to publication in EJIL. Here are the figures. The average time in review for manuscripts accepted without revision is 2.8 months and for those requiring revision the review period extends to seven months. These are averages; times range from one to 12 months. The average time from acceptance to publication is 6.5 months, ranging from two to 13 months. Thus, a fortunate author – whose article is punctually reviewed and accepted without the need for revision – may travel the path from submission to publication in, say, six months. But more commonly, the review process, particularly if revision is involved, followed by the queue to publication, means that authors will not see their article in print until well over a year after the initial submission.

There are two principal bottlenecks in the process: peer review remains one. For a recent article we wrote to eight peer reviewers before receiving a positive response! And one peer reviewer took 108 days before we finally obtained the report, albeit an excellent one. We now give a one-year digital subscription to our peer reviewers as compensation for their efforts and in the hope of expediting the procedure.

The second bottleneck is our pipeline. By the time an article is accepted for publication it will normally have to wait at least two and sometimes three issues before a slot becomes available. OUP is efficient in processing the copy we give them – typically it is them waiting for us! But that should not give the impression that we sit around twiddling our toes and flying kites with your submissions.

This, however, would be a good occasion to remind our authors and readers of our basic philosophy of journal publishing in the age of the internet, blogs, Facebook, and the like. We expect the instant note and comment on recent developments to take place on EJIL: Talk! In EJIL we aim to publish pieces which in our view have some lasting value – our rule of thumb is an expected shelf life of at least five years. I have, more than once, found myself writing such to an impatient author: ‘Maybe we made a mistake in accepting your piece, if it will, as you seem to suggest, lose its relevance if not published immediately.’  If someone is in the process of tenure review or the like, I would be happy to write to the relevant committees to attest that publication in EJIL is pending.

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