Firstly, the help page for Mathoverflow does not forbid asking such a question. Secondly I found a similar question on Mathoverflow and thirdly as far as I know, waiting for two years for a referee report is unheard of outside mathematics. So, here I go:

I submitted a 25-page paper to a pretty good journal exactly two years ago. I say "pretty good" so it is not a journal like Inventions or Annals. In these two years I've contacted the journal's contact person as well as the designated editor, without any avail. The last thing they told me was that "Since the start of 2014 we have sent it out to six new reviewers and are hopeful a report will be received soon." Let me make my questions precise:

Question 1: Does a journal have a responsibility to give a referee report to an author? Do I have any rights as an author?

Also because this is NOT the first time this happens to me:

Question 2: Is there any advice for not-waiting-two-years-for-a-report next time?

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    $\begingroup$ First, this must be a VERY good journal: sending a paper to six referees at once---this is what is really unheard of! Second, as an author, you have the right to withdraw the paper; then you are free to resubmit it to another place. In my opinion, 2 years is indeed way too much! $\endgroup$ May 5, 2014 at 18:27
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    $\begingroup$ This kind of thing is hard to control. The average time to get a report for my papers seems to be about a year, but on many occasions is has taken longer. After a year has past, my usual practice is to ping the editor every 2 months. Other than that, there is not much you can do. Certainly getting angry is not likely to have much of an effect. $\endgroup$ May 5, 2014 at 18:48
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    $\begingroup$ It happened to me too. After two years, the editor sent me back the paper without referee, saying that they were sorry to not accepting papers because of a long backlog. $\endgroup$ May 5, 2014 at 19:24
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    $\begingroup$ Nothing is unheard of on this subject (I could share some horror stories, but it would probably bore most folks here as they've experienced similar things themselves). Stay calm and polite, and you can always withdraw and resubmit to a different journal. $\endgroup$ May 5, 2014 at 19:42
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    $\begingroup$ This is not uncommon and there is not much that you can do. It's important not to get discouraged because it happens to other people, including myself. Be persistent! $\endgroup$ May 5, 2014 at 19:54

1 Answer 1


Two years without a report or decision is certainly too long. But this happens sometimes for various reasons.

The journals do not have to show you the referee's reports. At least some journals say that they don't have to. And that this is their policy. So a paper can be rejected (or accepted) without a referee report shown to the author.

If the reason of such delay is that the editor cannot find a referee, you may try to suggest him/her several possible referees. Sometimes the editors ask themselves. S/he may follow your suggestion or not, but try to suggest as many as you can, so that s/he has a choice.

I also recommend posting all your papers on arxiv. Besides many other advantages, you worry less about how long will it take to publish.

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    $\begingroup$ I put them on Arxiv first however peer reviewed and published papers count more than preprints. $\endgroup$ May 7, 2014 at 9:47
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    $\begingroup$ But at least this is an excellent way to secure your priority. $\endgroup$ May 23, 2016 at 0:13

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