The peer-review process for scientific manuscripts takes a considerable amount of time and work, and the specific process varies from journal to journal. All manuscripts published in the Journal of Swine Health and Production (JSHAP) include both the date the author submitted to the journal and the acceptance date. If you look at a few examples you will see that the time frame between these two dates varies greatly from manuscript to manuscript.
Why do we keep track of and publish this information? There are multiple reasons, but one reason from an administrative standpoint is that it helps the journal to monitor the time it takes for a manuscript to go through the review and editing process. Having this information helps identify ways we can streamline the process. Another reason is that some authors are very aware of certain journal statistics. As I mentioned in a previous editorial,1 authors may be concerned about statistics, for example, the journal impact factor, and for some, fast publication time is another consideration associated with the decision to submit to a particular journal.
The length of time from submission to publication depends on many things. It is not unusual for JSHAP to experience delays in the review process. It is a coordinated effort to keep things moving along and to balance author schedules, reviewer schedules, reviewers having to step down from the process for various reasons, addition of reviewers, journal timelines and deadlines, international time zones delaying communications, holidays, etc. For this reason, JSHAP does not have a guaranteed publication timeline, as many factors are out of our control. However, we are very aware of these timelines and strive to keep them reasonable. Karen Richardson, our Publications Manager, keeps track of the manuscripts, timelines, and people.
The specific review process begins with me, the Executive Editor. I read the manuscript and decide if it is within the scope of the journal. If it is not, it is returned to the author and not reviewed. Additionally, if the authors have not followed the author guidelines, the review process will be delayed while these issues are clarified. Two areas where authors often do not follow the guidelines are demonstrated in failure to provide information regarding animal use and incorrect formatting of the manuscript, errors which greatly delay the review process.
Once the manuscript is accepted for review, I send it to a member of the editorial board to act as lead reviewer. This is a critical component of the review process. The work of the editorial board members is essential, as it brings a wealth of expertise to the review process, the journal, and the body of published scientific literature in general. The lead reviewer guides the review process and helps to narrow the reviewer search for the individual submissions. Then, typically, two or three additional reviewers are obtained for each manuscript and are given 3 weeks to return their reviews. Once the reviews have returned, the lead reviewer takes all of them into consideration and makes a publication recommendation. Then it is my turn again. At this point I re-read and review the manuscript, I read all the external reviews and the publication recommendation, and then I make the final decision to conditionally accept the manuscript, request revisions, or reject the manuscript. If revisions are requested, the manuscript is returned to the authors, who are given another 8 weeks to respond. Once this revised manuscript is returned, it is sent back to the reviewers and the lead reviewer for re-consideration. This is the phase where a manuscript can tally up quite a bit of time in the review process. Depending on the revisions, the manuscript may be conditionally accepted at this time, returned for further revisions, or rejected.
The published submission date reflects the date the manuscript is submitted and the accepted date represents the date of conditional acceptance. Once the manuscript is conditionally accepted it is forwarded to our Associate Editor, Dr Judi Bell. Conditions that are usually required at this point are corrections in grammar, punctuation, format, and copy-editing concerns that Dr Bell manages. However, some conditions may also include minor revisions or requests for clarification from reviewers that Dr Bell will oversee. Once this phase is completed, the manuscript is converted into a proof by our Graphics Designer, Tina Smith, and reviewed one more time for typographical errors by Dr Bell and Karen Richardson. Finally, a proof is sent to the author. Once the author accepts the final proof, the review process is finished.
As you can see, the process is thorough and lengthy and requires the efforts of many critical people in the process. Thank you to those who contribute considerable amounts of time and effort to this process for JSHAP.
1. O’Sullivan T. Impact! [editorial]. J Swine Health Prod. 2013;21(5):239.
Terri O’Sullivan, DVM, PhD Executive Editor