Quick publishing timelines—the time from submission to publication—is integral to the growth of a journal. First, it reduces the time that your readership must wait to read and cite the latest developments in the field, thereby expediting the potential impact and influence on future research and practice. Second, authors want their valuable research published as fast as possible—without compromising the integrity of the editorial process. Providing authors with an efficient and quality peer review and publication process creates trust, increasing the chances that they will submit to your journal in the future and encourage their colleagues to do the same.
In this post, we explore the ideal publishing timelines for an online journal and offer guidance based on our experience in working with smaller-scale journals that receive 75 to 200 submissions per year and rely on editors, volunteers, and perhaps a small team to oversee publishing timelines. We also review alternative models to help decrease these publishing timelines.
Ideal Publishing Timelines
For a peer-reviewed journal, timelines can be divided into two categories: 1) Submission to Acceptance and 2) Acceptance to Publication.
Submission to Acceptance
From article submission to final editorial acceptance, we recommend a timeline of no more than 3 to 5 months. To help the process move efficiently, without compromising quality and standards, consider the following:
- Establish Timelines – Assign timelines to each stage of the peer review process, such as editorial pre-check, reviewer assignment, reviewer response, and author revisions.
- Communicate Expectations and Timelines – Those involved in the peer review process should clearly understand the timelines and the expectations associated with their role at each stage of the process. This should be communicated through your guidelines and email notifications.
- Implement Consistent Monitoring and Follow-Up – To ensure timelines are met, editors should monitor the process and follow up as needed.
Acceptance to Publication
Once an article is accepted for publication, it should be immediately assigned to the next available issue for publication. For a quarterly journal, we recommend publishing an article within 3 to 6 months of acceptance.
Therefore, the ideal publishing timeline from submission to acceptance to publication is 6 to 11 months, based on quarterly publication. If your journal is operating outside of these timelines, we recommend that you evaluate your publishing processes and timelines.
Evaluating Publishing Timelines
We encourage editors to evaluate the publication timelines of their journal annually to see where improvements can be made. You’ll likely find there is room for improvement and that efficiencies can be tightened. If it is consistently taking a year or more to publish articles in your journal, not only do you risk publishing outdated research, but you also risk losing the trust of researchers who submit to your journal.
Since an efficient peer review process is dependent on the responsiveness of authors, reviewers, and editors, some publishing delays can be expected. However, delays encountered in the review process can typically be recouped in the acceptance-to-publication timeline, over which editors have complete control. In addition, there are models that can help further decrease this timeframe to ensure rapid distribution of your published content.
Alternative Publishing Models
Publishing models that can help decrease the time from acceptance to publication include:
- Increased Publication Frequency – If your journal has a long queue of accepted articles that are waiting for publication, it may be time to consider increasing your publication frequency, such as moving from a quarterly to bi-monthly publication.
- In Press Model – This model provides the ability for editors to publish all or selected articles upon acceptance, prior to being assigned to an issue, so important research is quickly made available and citable. You can choose to make the accepted author version or post-production version available.
- Continuous Publication Model – Articles are published online and assigned to an open issue as soon as they have completed the production process, which results in quicker access to the final article version. Articles are continuously added to the open issue until closed based on the journal’s publishing schedule.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to publishing timelines. That’s why it’s important to regularly conduct a thorough review of your journal’s timelines and processes to see what adjustments can be made to better serve your readership and contributors.
If you need assistance establishing publishing timelines or would like to explore alternative options for your journal, we can help! We are pleased to offer consulting in addition to our full suite of website and publishing services. Contact us to learn more.