WTF Editor and What Professors Do All Day When Not in Class: A Two-Parter

I have submitted a paper to a journal that prides itself in rapid turnaround. It’s been a week and no action; it’s sitting on the editorial desk (well, metaphorically; rather in an inbox or a folder of some sort). I am getting really antsy, because they often send out for review within a couple of days from submission.

I have told myself I would give them 2 weeks and then nudge them. But I might have serious problems waiting that long… It’s a journal that does desk rejections, btw.

A few months ago, I had a Glam Wannabe journal sit on a manuscript for nearly a month and then desk-rejected.  I could have received a full review other places in the same amount of time. I was unbelievably pissed that they wasted my time like that. It will be a long, long time before I review for them again, I will tell you that. A$$holes.

What say you, blogosphere? How long do you allow the editors to sit on a paper before you nudge them to ask “WTF is going on? $hit or get off the can!” (Well, the polite version, anyway.) Do your actions depend on the typical or perceived or processing time for the journal? On how badly you want to publish in there? On how much coffee you’ve had?


What do we profs do all day when we don’t teach? Well, here you go.

Smurf the Little had an owie ear, was taken to a doctor and then to daycare this morning by DH. However, Middle Boy puked repeatedly and quite grossly yesterday evening and last night, so I stayed at home with him today, as I didn’t have to teach. The Puker will be 8 this spring, so he’s not high maintenance, and he was also starting to feel better, so I was able to work. What I did today:

  • reviewed 2 proposals for two different federal agencies (one US, one Canada);
  • reviewed 1 paper (revision, didn’t take very long);
  • wrote 2 letters of recommendation;
  • edited a full-length conference paper a student is submitting;
  • edited a colleague’s paper, which I promised to do even though I also asked to be taken off the author list because I didn’t do much for the project;
  • hastily submitted belated paperwork and a report for an existing grant that I hope to get renewed and I really should be behaving better towards the program manager;
  • filed paperwork for a no-cost extension of a grant;
  • organized and submitted paperwork for a recent trip;
  • filed justification for airfare for an upcoming trip;
  • booked yet another upcoming trip;
  • emailed pretty extensively with two grad students on technical stuff, and talked over the phone with one of them;
  • emailed lightly with three or four panicked undergrads, who realized the reign of terror is upon them as they are taking a class with me;
  • emailed w/ some 20 or so other people about various upcoming meetings or scheduling midterm classroom for my huge class etc;
  • prepped class for tomorrow;
  • scanned some pages for student HW I had assigned yesterday because the library doesn’t have the undergrad text on reserve yet;
  • organized and submitted paperwork to establish an undergrad’s research position  and a add a grad student’s MS to a PhD in another department;
  • read/skimmed two papers that a colleague sent me as of possible interest (they were);
  • worked on my annual report that’s due in about a week;
  • worked on the figures for a manuscript that should be submitted likely by Feb 1;
  • obsessed/fumed over the fact that the stupid paper from part 1 hasn’t gone out to review (or come back desk-rejected) yet. Okay, this is not work, but it takes energy. Even though it’s only dark energy… BWAHAHAHA.

Not bad for a lazy overpaid layabout academic on sick-kid duty, huh? As you can see, I make a great secretary. Who dabbles in teaching and research.

I still haven’t done the stuff I need to do for the awards committee I am on, and I have yet to write the paper to accompany the invited talk I am giving in February (I really shouldn’t have accepted the invitation, I don’t like to publish conference papers — too much time on something people don’t read or cite). Two journal papers are nearing submission by end of February, and a grant too; I am chipping away at those as well, but didn’t today.


  1. Yeah, my days are way too much email about clerical stuff and way too little science. I had to spend part of my afternoon assembling yet more evidence that I actually attended the professional event that I already submitted lots of documentation for. If we factor in benefits for computing hourly rates, between my time and the time of a fee staff members the cost of reviewing the travel claim is approaching 20% of the cost of the travel claim. Talk about waste.

  2. Are they professional/paid editors at the journal you’ve submitted to? If so then I think nudging now is totally fair game. If it’s a volunteer academic…well, this was the first week of the semester (for me) so I might give them the extra week.

  3. A student and I submitted a pair of companion papers to a journal this fall. The second paper was rejected for “major revision”—we modified a couple of paragraphs slightly and resubmitted, and it was accepted as having met all the referees’ comments (the “major” revision was just a ruse so that they could restart the clock and pretend that they had fast turnaround). The first paper of the paper had still not been sent to reviewers. We sent monthly requests to the editor and finally (after 4 months and 3 days) got back a rejection with no invitation to resubmit. The reviewers did find an omission (one I had pointed out to my co-author) that is now fixed (sometimes it takes a club bigger than an adviser wields to get students to listen), and we’re submitting to another journal. Meanwhile, we’ve put the first paper into BioRxiv so that it can be cited in the paper that is being published. I would have preferred to publish both papers in the same journal as companion papers, since they are two parts of the same same story (and the rejected paper was the better and more important of the two).

    In computer science, a 4-month review cycle would be considered quick, but in bioinformatics, it is considered very slow—papers are usually expected to appear in print in that amount of time.

  4. Holly f***ing s**t! It would take me at least half a day to do any of those things, even without sick kid duty.

  5. I’m in astronomy and our publishing situation is different in that rejections are quite rare, even in our top journal. People do publish in Nature and Science but it has not become the gold standard it is in other fields. As a result, this worry about a paper sitting around and then being rejected without review is not common. Our editors are also our peers. The biggest delay these days is the paper sitting on the reviewer’s desk. I have heard some complaints about slow editors at the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society but the Astrophysical Journal still seems pretty responsive.

  6. I think you drink too much caffeine. Is yours the only article submitted on that day – that week? Without this information your question about what is a reasonable amount of time is difficult to answer. However, assuming other submissions, I think a week or two is unreasonable. A thorough and initial review takes time. Three weeks for an initial desk review seems reasonable to me.

  7. You are working too hard. It’s impressive, but you’ll burn out and you won’t be able to do your best work when you need to. This really sounds unpleasant, and although you might like being in the center of the action, is this really how you want to spend your days? What about focusing on the most important things. I recommend being a worse academic citizen.

  8. Lol. I love when people give unsolicited advice on the internet. Because clearly they know what’s best for a complete stranger who’s blog they read… >.> (Part of me also wonders if folks are as willing to give such advice to people who identify as male).

  9. There is such a difference between disciplines in turnaround time for reviews and publication. In geology it’s not rare to have peer reviews take several months or longer (standard request for some well regarded journals in my field is to complete peer review of a manuscript within 60 days) and for a paper to take two years from submission to publication. Like they say, to a geologist a million years is a short time, but to a chemist a reaction may go to completion in microseconds.

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