Elsevier initiative leads to faster revision and review times

Streamlining publication times with the acceleration project

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 a minimum of one week, and then closely monitored the results: We wanted to learn how reviewers would react to tighter deadlines, both for reviewer invites and reviews. We had 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 logoThe 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 titleTotal editorial time in weeksWhat deadlines were changed?What did they achieve?
Developmental Review4332First and subsequent review and author revisionRevisions 6 weeks faster
Journal of International Money and Finance5948First and subsequent review and author revisionRevisions 6 weeks faster
Journal of Marine Systems3728First and subsequent reviewReviews 6 weeks faster
Aerospace Science and Technology4334First and subsequent review and author revisionRevisions 4 weeks faster, reviews 1.5 weeks faster
Review of Development Finance2816Only subsequent author revisionRevisions 10 weeks faster
Journal of Multinational Financial Management5322Only first author revisionRevisions 12 weeks faster
Progress in Retinal and Eye Research1812First and subsequent author revisionRevisions 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.”

Your journal: 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).

If your journal has not yet been involved in this project but you would like to participate, please contact your publisher.

Other Elsevier projects designed to tackle editorial speed are currently underway. If your journal isn’t already involved and you would like it to be, please contact your publisher.

Empower: Elsevier’s traffic light email service which alerts you to potentially late and overdue editorial tasks for articles under your supervision.

Editor visibility in invitations for reviews and revisions: Cell research has found author response rates increase from 77 percent to more than 90 percent when the editor’s name is visible in reviewer and author communications.

Reviewer deadline reminders: Pre- and post-deadline reviewer reminders can be switched on for your journal in EES/Evise. Sending well-formulated, pre-deadline reminders is much more effective than sending post-deadline reminders. This also applies to reviewer invites awaiting acceptance.

Peer to peer sessions: Just mention your interest to your publisher and a peer-to-peer session can be arranged with another Elsevier journal editor. These sessions are an ideal opportunity to share knowledge and discuss the issues you face.

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

Author biography

Annette Leeuwendal

Annette 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.

Archived comments

Rajkumar Patel says: May 29, 2015 at 12:47 am
Dear sir/madam, I am a reviewer of carbohydrate polymers an Elsevier journal which give 14 days of time to review. So just I just have a suggest that it’s really good to follow this time for other journal as well so that authors will be benifitted very much for the faster reviewing process. Now a days there is lot of competition to finish the project and publish he results as soon as possible.Kind regards Rajkumar

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