What do we think about Scientific Reports? Just had an email suggesting publishing there, quoting 100 day turnaround (is that fast??)
— Nick Loman (@pathogenomenick) March 18, 2013
Though there seems to be a lot of anecdotal information about how long it takes to get your scientific paper reviewed by a peer-review journal there doesn’t seem to be much actual data about this. Although some journals (like PNAS) list dates for “sent to review” and “approval”, these may not include the whole process- time for editorial consideration for example- and are probably not representative. PLoS journals do a great job and list the date received and the date of acceptance, but I couldn’t figure out a way to get that information in bulk (I didn’t inquire by the way- maybe another project in the works). The length of time it takes to review a paper for publication can have numerous impacts on projects, grant proposals, and the ability to submit to another journal if the paper is rejected.
Having been a peer reviewer for some time I realize that often it’s difficult to return reviews on time, and this is one source of delay. Editorial delays, because of volume of submissions being considered or other reasons, is another. And then there are just difficult reviews that may take more than the normal number of reviewers because of conflicting reviews or reviews that are not clearly positive or negative. This process can easily stretch out over months. Then after reviews come back the authors must address the reviewers concerns and submit their revisions. This is also a source of delay, and can be highly variable. Some journals (BMC journals for example) limit the number of revisions possible on a single manuscript to two- but they allow resubmission of the revised manuscript as a “new” submission after that- presumably to be handled by the same editor.
Over the last few years I’ve tracked the time it takes to get a paper accepted, from the time of first submission, for papers that I’m responsible for (first or last author papers). This doesn’t include rejected papers- some of those times, especially for higher impact journals where the initial decisions whether a paper will be peer reviewed at all are made by editors and turnaround is generally fairly quick.
This is NOT a representative sample, but it does capture many of the elements I’ve discussed above. These numbers are pretty in-line with an evaluation of PLoS One turnaround times.
So the answer is: No, I wouldn’t consider 100 days to be fast, but it’s not exactly slow either. In fact, it may be in line with what can generally be expected from the scientific publication system. I’d be very interested to hear other researchers’ opinions on their times in peer review and if you have data all the better.
Table. Survey of time in review for a number of my own papers.
|PMID||Journal||Days in review||Months|
|22546282||BMC Sys Bio||335||11.2|
|22074594||BMC Sys Bio||103||3.4|
|20974833||Infection and Immunity||55||1.8|