Elsevier initiative leads to papers appearing online faster

By reducing lead-in times for reviews and author revisions a number of journals have seen substantial improvements in editorial times

An Elsevier project designed to streamline reviewer and author revision times has led to an average increase in editorial speeds of 7 days for participating journals, with several titles recording improvements of more than 10 weeks.

The acceleration project was launched in 2014 with 1,100 journals from a variety of disciplines. The first step was to conduct an inventory of the deadlines given to reviewers and to authors for their revisions. We discovered that some journals didn’t mention any, while others regularly received contributions before the deadline given. There were also some journals which allowed up to one year for the review/revision process – a tradition dating back to the time when manuscripts traversed the globe via sea mail.

We asked participating journals to reduce their current review periods by one week as a minimum improvement, and then closely monitored the results: We wanted to learn how reviewers would react to tighter deadlines, both for reviewer invites and reviews.  We’ve already learnt that with regards to author revision times, there are much larger gains to be made, so our (title-specific) proposals to reviewers and authors varied from one week to even a month or more.

Cell Press logoElsevier’s acceleration project was inspired by a 2013 Cell Press initiative, which set out to discover what would happen  if a journal’s review deadline was reduced by a few days. The results showed that reviewers were more likely to accept invites with a shorter response timeframe. Cell also found that the percentage of reviewers meeting deadlines remained unchanged at 70 percent and reviewer compliance was  comparable with previous compliance levels. Sending one pre-deadline reminder was also found to have a positive impact on reviewer response.

700 of the original 1,100 journals in the project changed their deadlines – some for both reviewers and authors and some for one group only. Data collected over 2014 and 2015 to date show these journals, on average, have indeed accelerated their editorial times by one week, while several participating  journals have improved them by more than two months. This has led to articles being published online faster and a shorter waiting time for authors. And the good news is that this has been achieved without any negative feedback received from the authors and reviewers involved.

In the table below, we highlight several journals which have really made a difference to their authors by implementing these speed improvements:

Journal title Total editorial time in weeks What deadlines were changed? What did they achieve?
  2013 2014  
Developmental Review 43 32 First and subsequent review and author revision Revisions 6 weeks faster
Journal of International Money and Finance 59 48 First and subsequent review and author revision Revisions 6 weeks faster
Journal of Marine Systems 37 28 First and subsequent review Reviews 6 weeks faster
Aerospace Science and Technology 43 34 First and subsequent review and author revision Revisions 4 weeks faster/reviews 1.5 weeks faster
Review of Development Finance 28 16 Only subsequent author revision Revisions 10 weeks faster
Journal of Multinational Financial Management 53 22 Only first author revision Revisions 12 weeks faster
Progress in Retinal and Eye Research 18 12 First and subsequent author revision Revisions 3 weeks faster

Giovanni Raneri, a Publisher for the Finance Portfolio, commented: “I am delighted to see two of my titles, the Journal of Multinational Financial Management and the Journal of International Money and Finance, standing out for the biggest gain in editorial speed. This is  exactly the kind of improvement standard needed to make a difference in the publishing industry and it has been delivered in Elsevier’s own innovative and unique way.”

Opportunities for further fine-tuning

Following careful analysis of the data, we will now offer journals three review and revision time options - short, average and long. These will be available to all journals already on Evise - the successor to the current Elsevier Editorial System (EES).

For reviews of research papers, journals will be able to choose from 14, 21 or 30 days and for revision deadlines we will offer 14, 30 or 60 days (based on title analysis).

With thanks to our main contributor, Meredith Adinolfi, Production Director Cell Press


Author biography

Annette LeeuwendalAnnette Leeuwendal is Director of Publishing Projects, Processes & Systems and is based in Amsterdam. Her team’s remit is to apply best practices and innovations to the larger group of Elsevier titles,  whether it concerns customer-facing improvements, or internal efficiencies. Editorial speed, workflow innovations and author centricity are key focuses. Annette has been involved in various programs across Elsevier’s Operations and Publishing divisions since 2010. She has a master’s degree  in geology and an MBA from Henley Management College Netherlands.

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