Since we’ve talked a bit in the past here about the editorial practices followed by our profession’s journals, I thought I’d ask what people think about journals giving authors deadlines to respond to ‘revise and resubmit’ letters.
Most every time I’ve received a R+R letter, the journal has simply indicated that they’d welcome (or less enthusiastically, would be willing to consider) a revised version of my manuscript. However, I recently received a R+R letter from a journal (I won’t name it) that asked me to send back a revised version of my manuscript by early November. That’s a little over two months to do the revisions. That wouldn’t be a problem if it were December or June and I could look forward to a significant break from teaching during which I could tackle the revisions. But at the beginning of September, with the fall term dawning, a two-month window puts some significant stresses on my time and energy. At the very least, two months strikes me as unrealistic in a lot of circumstances, especially when the requested revisions are really substantive and might require, say, re-reading some of the relevant literature.
At the same time, I recognize that journals "are people too" and have a reasonable interest in wanting to move their own editorial processes along. They have to plan articles in advance, taking into account page counts, etc., so wanting to know when an author might return a revised manuscript is a fair demand. But I wonder if stipulating a hard deadline, and a quick one at that, doesn’t take adequate account of the needs of authors.
Here are two proposals that strike me as fair:
- If a journal really does have a policy concerning how long authors will be given to revise and resubmit, that should be made public in their submission guidelines. That would enable authors to determine if they in fact could meet such a deadline or let authors time the submission of their manuscripts so as to make the revise and resubmit window fall when authors are able to deal with it.
- A good alternative might be to ask authors (in the R+R letter) when they’d likely submit a revised manuscript. If an author’s response is at odds with the journal’s expectations (the author’s reply is ‘three years more or less’), then the journal could gently suggest an alternative deadline. This way, the deadlines could be negotiated rather than unilaterally imposed.