Q: Is it normal for a final decision to be pending for more than three months?

Detailed Question -

We had submitted a manuscript in June for a special issue. The manuscript has since been under consideration for more than six months now. Reviews were completed on time in September. We sent two follow-up emails regarding the status of the manuscript in December. While the editorial office replied that the paper was with the editor for a final decision, we have still not heard back from the editor to this date (January). According to the journal statistics, the first decision is made within approximately three months. I wonder if it is normal for a special issue to have a longer decision period.

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Answer:

To begin, it is commendable how diligently you have been following the progress of the manuscript at the journal and how much you know of the journal’s publication process. You are obviously keen to know the outcome for your manuscript. Hopefully, your diligence and knowledge will bear fruit.

To get back to your query, there could be a few reasons for the long time being taken for the decision. Firstly, as you have rightly observed, special issues take a long time planning and executing and therefore providing approval to submitted manuscripts. The Editor-in-Chief (EiC) along with their team have several factors to keep in mind, such as the overall scope of the journal, the theme of the special issue, the balance of articles in the issue, and so on. However, given the time since you submitted the initial manuscript (about six months), I believe they would be targeting the special issue for publication within a month or so from now, and would therefore soon be arriving at a decision.

Secondly, the holiday season may have been a cause for the delay too, with both reviewers and editors likely to have been on leave. After returning from leave, they would have had a backlog of both manuscripts and mails to go through. As you haven’t heard from them for about a month, you could send a follow-up mail requesting an update. A final reason could be some sort of development or change internally at the journal. However, as we don’t have any visibility into that, it wouldn’t help to speculate or discuss that here.

All the best for your manuscript! Hopefully, you will hear good news soon.

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