Q: What should I do about my manuscript being under peer review for two years?
I had submitted a paper to a journal, and the manuscript has been under review for two years now. I made two attempts at contact with one of the editors at separate times last year, but with no success in getting a response. I also emailed the other editor, with the same outcome. I left it alone for a year before again making contact a few days ago. It was the same result: no response. My manuscript has been sitting there for two years. I don't know what to do next, withdraw the paper or wait for a while longer. Can anyone advise? I would be grateful for suggestions. Thanks.
Although papers in some fields can take a while for peer review, two years is indeed a long time. What’s more, the editors haven’t responded to any of your queries. So, it would indeed be best to withdraw and resubmit elsewhere. However, you will need to inform the journal of your decision to withdraw as the manuscript is technically under peer review and the journal has put some effort in it. So, you can mail the editor(s) of your decision and request their permission for this. However, as you have written, they are unlikely to be responsive. So, you can send another mail a few days or weeks later informing them that in case you don’t hear from them, you will consider the manuscript withdrawn.
You can then submit the manuscript to another journal. However, you will need to inform the other journal of the history of the manuscript. So, preserve your communication with the present journal to show to the other journal if needed.
Now, a couple of additional points.
As it has been two years since you submitted the manuscript and perhaps longer since you wrote it, a fair bit would have changed regarding your topic and even your field. So, before resubmitting the manuscript, you may wish to review it and make updates wherever necessary.
You have also mentioned that you made a few attempts to contact the editors the first year and then left the manuscript alone for a year. Among others, that could be one reason for the delay on this manuscript. Editors have a lot of manuscripts at various stages of the cycle to go through. So, unless an author follows up with them regularly (without pestering them, of course), they are likely to focus their attention on other manuscripts. So, during the withdrawal process and then during the submission process to the next journal, I would recommend (and perhaps even urge) you to be more proactive in your communication. It will only help your manuscript and even your career as a whole.
For now, good luck with the withdrawal and then the submission to the next journal!