Q: How to withdraw a revised paper from a journal that is publishing irregularly?

Detailed Question -

Last year, my co-authors and I submitted an article to a journal that seemed most appropriate for the subject. After several months, we received a request to revise and resubmit, which we did. It’s been 4 months since, but we have received no further communication regarding the resubmitted article. The article was submitted by email as instructed by the journal.

This journal is now without a permanent editor. Although it states that it publishes 3 issues a year, it has not published three issues since 2013. In 2014, it published two issues, in 2015 one issue, and none in 2016. I believe this is a sign of serious disorganization at the journal end. Meanwhile, our data is getting older and older. For all these reasons, I believe it is in our best interest to withdraw our article from consideration. Would it be ethical, and if so, how should we go about doing this? Thank you!!

Write an answer...
1 Answer to this question
Answer:

You have not mentioned whether you have tried to contact the journal during these 4 months. If you haven’t, you could write to them explaining your concerns and asking when the next issue of the journal is expected to be published, and whether your paper will be included in this issue, and when you can expect the page proofs. Since the journal editor and reviewers have spent their time and effort on your paper, it would be unethical to withdraw your paper at such an advanced stage without giving them a chance.

However, if you have sent emails to the journal within the last 4 months and they have been unresponsive, you could consider withdrawing your manuscript. For this, you will have to write an email to the editor explaining that you wish to withdraw your manuscript and request a confirmation of withdrawal. Note that you will not be able to submit your manuscript to another journal until the withdrawal process is complete as this would be considered duplicate or concurrent submission. The withdrawal process will be regarded as complete only when you receive a confirmation email from the journal editor.

In case the editor does not reply even to your withdrawal request, you will need to send multiple reminders and wait till you receive a reply. If there is still no reply, you will have to write to the journal saying that you will consider the withdrawal process complete if there is no reply within a specific period of time (set a deadline of a few weeks). You can submit your manuscript to another journal if you receive no response within the stipulated time. However, make sure you write to the editor of the second journal, explaining the situation and providing the email thread about the withdrawal as supporting evidence to assure them that there was no intention of duplicate submission from your end.

Since you mentioned your concern about your data getting older due to this delay in publication, you could consider posting your article as a preprint on a public repository such as arXiv. This is because even if you submit your paper to another journal, the journal review process will take a few more months. If the paper is rejected, publication will be delayed further. Uploading your article on arXiv will at least help you get scientific priority and prevent you from getting scooped.