The process of manuscript review is a central part of scientific publishing, but has increasingly become the subject of criticism, particularly for being difficult to manage, slow, and time consuming – all of which contribute to delaying publication.
To identify potential sources of delays during manuscript review by examining the review process, and to identify and propose constructive strategies to reduce time spent on the review process without sacrificing journal quality.
Sixty-seven manuscripts published in the Australasian Medical Journal (AMJ) were evaluated in terms of duration of peer review, number of times manuscripts were returned to authors, time authors spent on revision per review round, manuscripts containing grammatical errors reviewers deemed as major, papers where instructions to authors were not adhered to, and the number of reviews not submitted on time.
The median duration of the review process was found to be 74 days, and papers were on average returned to authors 1.73 times for revision. In 35.8% of papers, instructions to authors were not adhered to, whilst 29.8% of papers contained major grammatical errors. In 70.1% of papers reviewers did not submit their reviews on time, whilst the median time spent on revision by authors per review round was found to be 22 days.
This study highlights the importance of communication before and during review. Reviewers should be thoroughly briefed on their role and what is expected of them, whilst the review process as well as the author’s role in preventing delays should be explained to contributors upon submission.