Monday, December 5, 2011

Tales From The Science Trenches: Case of the missing editor

Note: Over the next few months I'll be doing a series of posts critiquing modern peer-review process.  As part of this I'd like to collect stories from other scientists on their experiences trying to get papers through peer-review.  Good or bad, if you have a story you'd like to share, please email me (timothyv[at]gmail[dot]com) or put them in the comments section and I'll post them as I see them.  

Almost immediately after my post yesterday a friend emailed me to share her story.  I think it sets another good case for why proper editorial management is so important.

If you or a colleague have a similar story or even a positive one about the submission process, please email me your tale.

Case of the Missing Editor

"Hi Tim,

I submitted a manuscript to the International Journal of [redacted] on March 7.  This journal doesn’t have an online submission site, so authors are supposed to email (or paper mail) the submission to the editor.  After several attempts to email the editor with the email address listed on the journal website and on his university web page, none of the emails went through. I also didn’t get a response to an email I sent to someone else on the editorial board looking for the editor’s email address.

So I contacted someone in the office I work in to see if they had ideas about where to go from there.  It turned out the email addresses listed for the editor were incorrect, so they gave me the right one.  I sent in the manuscript, it seemed to go through, but I never received acknowledgement of receipt.  I forgot about it for a while, and figured I’d hear from them with a decision in a few months.

At the end of July, I sent an email to the editor asking for acknowledgement of receipt and information on when I might expect to hear a decision.  He never responded.  At the end of August, I emailed an associate editor at the journal who happened to be at the same university, and asked if he could help me out with getting in contact with the editor about my questions.  He responded right away saying he would get in contact with the editor for me, but I never heard anything from him after that.

At the beginning of September, my advisor emailed the editor asking about my manuscript and another of his that he had sent in May.  The editor responded within a day, saying he received the manuscripts and sent them out for review, and he has a new email address that we should use.

We heard nothing back by the end of October, so at that point I sent another email inquiring about both manuscripts that are under review.  Three weeks later, he responded and apologized for the 'long delay' in his response, saying that he has had a 'high workload.'  He said 'I will be able to inform you about a decision very soon now. You will hear from me before December 15.'

And so we wait.

I’ve considered (many times) pulling my manuscript from the journal and submitting it somewhere else, but haven’t because the topic of my paper just wouldn’t fit well at very many journals, and all of my other journal options have lengthy (2-3 year) waits between acceptance and publication.  Needless to say, I don’t plan on ever submitting to this journal again, at least as long as this person remains the editor."

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