Q: Has the journal not responded to my inquiry about the status because I'm a non-major and the paper is not thorough?

Detailed Question -

I am a non-major in mathematics. When I was in college, I studied and wrote in depth a physics paper that I submitted to an overseas university. Recently, I submitted the paper to the SCI Journal of Mathematics in the US. It passed the desk screening of the journal. Two days later, the status changed to Under Review with the message: ‘Your paper is being reviewed by the journal’s editors and you will be contacted as soon as we have news.’ But it’s been the same status for four months.

As far as I know, it takes some time to get a review, but the fact that I received the above message in a few days made me wonder how they could get a reviewer so quickly. So far, I have sent two emails asking about the status, but there has been no answer. I also sent an inquiry email to the journal, but there was still no answer.

I wonder if they are ignoring my paper because I didn’t major in mathematics and [so] the proof of the paper was not very thorough. A postdoc who helped me with my paper said that if the journal wanted to reject the paper, they wouldn’t take that long.

I can wait for a long review time, but I don’t know how to understand/interpret the unresponsiveness to my mails.

1 Answer to this question

Hello Dr Moon – Welcome to the forum.

Before we respond to your query, please note that we have made some edits, especially to the initial part of your query. Even if some of these are incorrect, we believe they do not impact the general understanding of the query.

Also, it’s not clear which journal you submitted to. There doesn’t seem to be any ‘SCI Journal of Mathematics’ or even a ‘Journal of Mathematics.’ As you mentioned the journal is US-based, you may have meant American Journal of Mathematics. If so, we shall respond to this part after responding to the other points in your query.

Coming to your query now, there are some key points in it, and we’ll respond to each separately.

How did the journal get the reviewer so quickly?

As the journal’s message stated, ‘your paper is being reviewed by the journal’s editors.’ While peer review is often done by external (non-journal) individuals, at times, it may be done by internal (journal) individuals. This may be due to a variety of reasons, such as the journal having the requisite experts internally or based on the journal structure and policy. So, this may explain how the journal got the reviewer/s so quickly.

How do you interpret the journal’s unresponsiveness? Is it because you are not a math major and so the proof of your paper may not be thorough?

There are multiple queries and concerns within this query. Let’s take these too one by one.

No, we don’t believe the journal would look at your experience/expertise and then decide how to evaluate your paper. The right journal would know to look mainly for scientific/academic merits in your paper, which include aspects such as the novelty of the topic, the soundness of the research, and the quality of the writing/presentation.

Of course, due to your inexpertise or low expertise, the proof, or some parts of it, may not be sound. But this will probably be called out in the peer review. The peer review comments will help you build your knowledge and will also help you for future projects/papers. So, you can only go upwards from here. :-)

Finally, about the journal’s unresponsiveness, there could be several reasons for it. The editors (who are also the reviewers in this case) may be busy with many other papers plus other journal responsibilities. They may also have a policy to not respond to mid-review inquiries.

The journal wouldn’t take so long if they wanted to reject the paper.

This can be true for desk rejections, but as yours has cleared the desk screening, this may not be the case. There are instances of papers having spent two-three years (yes, years, not months) in the publication process before finally being rejected – and also being accepted. As you said that you are fine with a long review cycle (although you shouldn’t necessarily be so), this may not be an issue for you.

A suggestion...

From your overall query, the feeling that seems to be emerging is one of thinking too much about this scenario and perhaps not in the right direction. It’s understandable that you may be concerned about the duration of the review and the possible outcome, but thinking that it’s due to your lack of expertise in a subject may not be the best way to approach this. And as we have already written, with time and effort, your knowledge and expertise are only bound to grow. :-)

The journal

Coming now to the part about the exact journal. In case you actually meant American Journal of Mathematics, we believe the answers to some of your queries may well lie here. The journal is published by John Hopkins University Press, which is a very well-known and prestigious publisher. The journal too has great repute, having been in publication for over 140 years.

If this is indeed the journal you submitted to, some of the information on their Author Guidelines page should address some of your concerns. As it states in the Preparing and Submitting Manuscripts section, a manuscript needs to be submitted to the journal editors, all of whom are professors at universities with global repute. As they are reviewing papers in addition to their professorial duties, this could be the reason for the long time in review. In fact, further down in the section, a note states that ‘The editors currently predict a publication waiting time of approximately 16-18 months (assuming only minor revisions, done promptly).’ This period is well over a year. As it’s been about four months since your submission, it’s likely to be another two months or so till you hear from them.

Once again, if this is indeed the journal you submitted to (or even in the case of another journal), and this timeline is not favorable to your academic goals, you may consider withdrawing from here and submitting to another journal. For that, you’ll need to mail them about your withdrawal, receive a confirmation of the withdrawal, and only then, submit to another journal. (If not, that will be a case of duplication submission.) In case the journal continues to not respond, you may send them a final mail about the withdrawal stating that as you haven’t heard from them about the withdrawal, you are considering the submission withdrawn.

Hope all this helps. For more information and help with the various points discussed here, you may find it worthwhile to go through the following resources:

All the best for the next updates/actions! And keep the faith!