Multiple or simultaneous submission could introduce valuable competitive forces among journals for the best manuscripts. Multiple submission is allowed in some specialties. Piron compared his experience of writing and submitting papers to economics, finance, maths, and psychology journals, which do not allow multiple submissions, with law review journals, which do.5
He noted that law review journals in the United States had the “fastest turnaround times of any set of journals on the planet.”5
Journals may have other reasons than preventing competition for not allowing multiple submission. Multiple submission would increase the workload of journal staff through the increased flow of manuscripts. For some journals, the extra administrative burden would not be worth while as it may slow down their decision making processes and allow a competitor to “scoop” the article. This would leave them with the sunk costs of mailing the paper to reviewers etc, without having had the chance of publishing the paper.
Workload would also increase for researchers as they will be asked to review more papers. This is a burden some of us would bear to increase turnaround. Indeed, as a condition of allowing multiple submission, journals could set the condition that one or more of the authors of the submitted paper would agree to review one of the journal's other recent submissions.
Workload for both journals and reviewers would fall, however, if a collaborative model of multiple submission was adopted. In this model, a journal would allow multiple submission on the condition that the paper went to a partner journal. Both journals could then share the reviewer's reports and one journal's staff could handle the administration.
Some journals use an author pays system—for example, BioMed Central journals. It is feasible that journals could have a single (free) submission policy or a multiple (pay) approach. This would allow the journal to offset some of its increased costs from losing an article to a rival but it would also depress the demand for the service. However, this approach might be less than ideal given that some organisations can better afford to pay than others. Additionally, authors may be more likely to pay if they have positive findings than negative results. Allowing papers with negative findings to be submitted at no charge might offset this problem.
Several models of multiple submission exist. Journals could adopt any of these, and they might even experiment with different models using a randomised trial.