Q: Should I withdraw the manuscript if it has been 'Under Review' for nine months?
I submitted a paper, and for nine months, it was in 'Under Review.' When I asked, they replied that "Once the review is completed, we will inform you." Can I withdraw the manuscript?
Nine months is a long time for the manuscript to be ‘Under Review.’ This means that it may have been even longer since submission, at least 10 months. :-/ The delay could have partly been due to the COVID-19 crisis that would have been prevalent for the better part of this period. But we are seeing that journals have gradually been able to deal with the impact of the crisis, as you can read here.
So, you have a point in considering a withdrawal. However, before that, you should think about a few things, such as the quality/stature of this journal and therefore, whether it would help to wait a while; the time involved in now submitting to another journal; and the possible changes you might have to make to your manuscript in submitting to another journal (also because there may have been developments in your field in these 10 months). Based on these considerations, you can figure out how to proceed.
If you do decide to withdraw, it would help to first make presubmission inquiries with other journals to gauge your likelihood of acceptance with one of them. Once you have an idea of this, you can let this journal know that you wish to withdraw, citing the reason of the delay. Once they are fine, only then can you submit to another journal. Otherwise, it will be a case of duplicate submission. For other points to keep in mind for withdrawal, you may refer to this previous query by another researcher: Should I withdraw my paper if the journal is taking unusually long to process?
If you wish to speed up publication with another journal, you may wish to consider a rapid publication journal. Of course, in this case, beware of predatory journals that promise fast acceptance but only to fleece you. Learn more about how to identify these journals here.
Finally, in case of a new submission (to another journal) and for future submissions, you may wish to learn about our new AI-powered platform, R Pubsure, which aims to help you avoid or at least minimize desk rejection. It does this first through its machine-based checks, which help you gradually make your manuscript submission-ready. Once you are ready to submit, you then get a chance to showcase your ready manuscript to several journal editors on the platform itself, one of whom may consider it for publication with their journal, if of course they find it interesting and relevant. You may learn more about the platform here: R Pubsure
All the best for your next steps!