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Can I show my irritation to a journal that takes a long time for peer review?

I have completed my master's thesis. I wanted to get it accepted before my graduation, so I submitted it to a BMC online journal whose process for peer review and publication is usually rapid.

The status was unchanged after one month of submission, so I told the journal following things:

1. I want to know the latest status.

2. In case any big delay is happened in peer review process (ex. selecting peer reviewer etc.), I want to withdraw my paper.

The editorial office promptly responded to say these two points would be informed  to the Editor.

However, the status had not been changed for one month, and I sent a reminder. No response was received, but the status was changed to “Under review”, and then the first peer review report was provided. (This was 2.5 months after submission.) The peer review comments by two reviewers were positive: one said “accept with no revision” and the other said “minor revision” with a suggestion to update the outdated references. As it was a minor revision, I made the resubmission within the same day.

However, there was no progress for 2.5 months after that. I sent an inquiry to Editorial Office (it was 4.5 months after submission), and another reminder (5 months after submission) as I had not  received any response. Finally, I received an email which said that the peer reviewer’s comment had already been received and the journal was waiting for another reviewer's comment before making the final decision. The status became “Under review”, and one month passed after that (it was 6 months after submission.)

I am wondering if it would be reasonable to send any further inquiry, but I assume the process would not progress without some pushing. So far, the status was changed only after I sent inquiries. If I send another inquiry, should I convey my irritation also?

Your advice would be appreciated. 

It is true that sometimes journal editors need reminders from authors. Often they are so busy that they do forget to follow up with reviewers. Since you need the publication for your graduation, it is a good idea to send reminders to the journal from time to time. 

Unfortunately, journal evaluation processes are in general rather slow, especially for high profile multidisciplinary journals, as they receive a large number of submissions. However, in your case, the journal has generally been responsive and has taken some action each time you sent a reminder. This shows that they understand your problem and are trying to expedite the process. While I can understand that you are in a hurry, you must remember that journal editors and reviewers are also busy people and they are catering to many other submissions as well, and other authors must also be sending reminders asking them to speed up the process.

Thus, while you should definitely continue following up with them, you should not vent your irritation. The most important thing in communicating with a journal is politeness. You should be polite and courteous in your emails at all times. In fact, rather than venting your irritation, you can perhaps, show the urgency of the situation. Tell them that you need the paper for your graduation, mention the date by which you need it, express your anxiety and request them to expedite the process as far as possible. Politeness will, I am sure, work much better than anger or irritation. 

Recommended reading:

6 Effective tips to help you communicate better with journals


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