Q: Are the following actions and reactions signs of bad editorial practice in a high-indexed academic journal?

Detailed Question -

I submitted a brief report (2,000 words) to a high-indexed journal and then sent an email stating that a preprint for the manuscript has been uploaded. They were to get back to me on the preprint as soon as they heard from the editor. (I thought: Whatever, [it’s] just a preprint notification.) However, even after 20 days, there was no reply, and even after a month, the manuscript was still at the With Editor stage.

I sent an email checking about this, and received a reply in bad English: “Dear XY, Th editor has mailed to patience that he is working on the same. Best, XY” Immediately though, the status changed to In Review. How would you interpret this?

1 Answer to this question

Your query has quite a bit of detail and context. We do get what you are saying, or rather, asking. However, you have also sought our interpretation. So, here goes…

High-indexed academic journals, as you may well know, receive a lot of submissions, a lot more than lower-indexed journals. So, firstly, there’s a lot on their plate. For the same reason (of being a more prestigious journal), there’s also a lot at stake for them, compared with the “lower” journals. As a result, they tend to take time with various actions, especially those on the author side, such as responding to queries (in your case). This may be exacerbated at times by the nature of the submission, such as a report (in your case), which may not be considered as “high value” as a full-fledged paper, and therefore receive less attention/priority. However, from our experience, we have seen that when authors do write to them and persistently so, they do take action, as seems to have happened in your case.

Some of the actions you have described could be viewed as un-ideal editorial practices, especially from the perspective of an eager author seeking to witness progress on their paper. But this is largely not intentional. Even the matter of the poorly crafted response may have been the result of someone on the Admin (rather than Editorial) team having replied in a jiffy, not having checked, or simply falling prey to the quirks of auto-correct! As you may understand, a particular response, or even a series of responses, may not have only one interpretation, and not the obvious one.

From what we sense, the journal should do due diligence to your submission, only they might need some occasional coaxing from you, which you seem to have done adequately thus far. :)

For additional perspectives, you may find it worthwhile to go through the following related resources:

Additionally, as your question touched upon preprints, you may find it useful to go through these related queries by other researchers:

Hope that helps. All the best for witnessing swifter movements on your manuscript!