Time to review for scientific publications revisited

Anna Sharman wrote a couple of excellent posts about time to first response for journals and time to publication after acceptance for journals. Following up my previous post on time spent at the journal (from submission to acceptance) she wrote:

So I went back through my email archive and reconstructed the process for all the papers I previously listed, plus a couple. And I corrected a few inaccuracies in my previous report (I was lumping the two rejections that I then resubmitted anew with their eventually accepted versions- not really fair for the journals). Here are the results which show that the time from submission to first response (in all cases listed except the one with the asterisk this is when I received the first reviews), overall time to acceptance, and finally time to publication after acceptance. The publication time is the first time the article appears on a website since most of these journals have epub before ‘print’ policies. PLoS journals don’t have a physical volume (there is not a physical paper-and-glue PLoS journal) but they do release volumes, collections of articles, at set times.

Overall my reanalysis decreased the mean total time at the journal (from 5.7 months to 4.9 months) and showed that the actual time spent under review (as opposed to time when I was revising the paper according to reviewers’ comments) was about half that- about 2.6 months. I would be interested in seeing if this is typical or not since this is one variable that could be very specific to the way that I work.

The outlier in the analysis is my PLoS One publication that was first considered at PLoS Computational Biology. This appears to have a very short turnaround time, but this is only because the editor at PLoS One evaluated my responses to the reviews received from PLoS Computational Biology and made a decision on that basis.

Finally, this analysis does not take into account several places where the effective time to acceptance was much longer. The aforementioned PLoS One publication was actually submitted to the RECOMB Systems Biology conference where it reviewed well (about 2.5 months) then recommended for consideration at PLoS Computational Biology, where it was reviewed not as well. From start to finish this was close to a year before it was actually published. Likewise the BMC Systems Biology publication that was rejected then resubmitted went through a long process of editorial consideration at the end that extended the time we had it (i.e. shortened the time in review by my calculations) by a lot since we had challenged inappropriate reviews at the editorial level.

The original impetus for the post was

And the current analysis revises my initial assessment since what Nick was really asking about was the turnaround time- that is, the time from submission to receipt of the first reviews for the paper. In this case 100 days is quite a bit longer than normal (as judged by my limited analysis here) since the mean turnaround times I get are about 2 months.

Table. (revised) Survey of time in review for a number of my own papers.

PMID Journal Time to first review Months until acceptance Months spent in review Acceptance to publication
23335946 Expert opinions 1.9 4.7 1.9 0.9
22546282 BMC Sys Bio (rejected) 2.0   2.0  
22546282 BMC Sys Bio (new submission) 1.9 11.2 3.0 1.3
23071432 PLoS CB 3.1 12.2 7.6 1.8
22745654 PLoS One 2.7 6.6 4.2 2.7
22074594 BMC Sys Bio 3.2 3.4 3.3 1.0
21698331 Mol BioSystems 1.8 4.6 3.0 1.0
21339814 PLoS CB (rejected) 1.0   1.0
21339814 PLoS One (new submission *) 0.4 0.4 0.4 0.9
20974833 Infection and Immunity 1.8 1.8 2.2 0.7
20877914 Mol BioSystems 0.8 1.2 0.9 1.4
19390620 PLoS Pathogens 1.8 4.4 2.4 4.6
20974834 Infection and Immunity 2.0 2.9 2.0 0.4
Mean (months) 1.9 4.9 2.6 1.5
  Std dev (days) 24 119 57 35




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