Publishing a paper is often like giving birth. Every author who publishes more than a snippet knows. Checking every detail in the text, looking up references, and making the figures suitable for your journal of choice. The latter activity can be a story on its own. But at one, good day the manuscript in ready for submission. And depending on the journal chosen, the way from submission to print may be fast or slow. Some journals build their reputation on a thorough review process, while others are of such high reputation that they have a long queue of manuscripts for publication.
In systematics, things have changed. Traditionally printing was a prolonged process; digitizing techniques have had, however, a revolutionary impact; also on the speed of publishing. That is to say, they can. Some journals still take there time; to the benefit of the editors, there can be good reasons for it. Some journals are very proud of their short time between submitting and printing a paper.
Some examples from my own experience:
1) Submitted: 5.xi.2009; accepted: 22.iii.2010; published: 15.x.2010. Duration: nearly a year.
2) Submitted: 15.i.2009; accepted 2.iii.2009; published: 6.iv.2009. Duration: < 3 months.
3) Submitted: 8.iv.2009, accepted 12.v.2009, published 9.vii.2009. Duration: 3 months.
4) Submitted 15.ii.2011, accepted 7.iv.2011, published 31.v.2011. Duration 3+ months.
The fastest example I have (not from my own experience!) is:
5) Submitted 5.viii.2011, accepted 5.ix.2011, published 29.ix.2011. Duration: 55 days.
Note that not all journals publish these complete data, hence the total duration between submission and publication is not always clear. Some examples may elucidate this.
Zoologische Mededelingen Leiden:
European Journal of Taxonomy:
Last year I finished, together with a co-author, a substantial paper. It was submitted on 11.viii.2010. On 4.x.2010 the editor reported that the manuscript was “back from the reviewers and I hope to get to it in the not too distant future”. Only after a repeated inquiry, the reviews were sent on 24.iii.2011. My co-author then asked “Unfortunately, a long time has passed since our original submission of this manuscript, and we would like the paper to be published as soon as possible. For these reasons, we would like to ask if you can provide us with some assurance that the paper can indeed be published within a short time from our re-submission. Please let me know if this is possible. We will be working in addressing the reviewers’ and your suggestions for which we are thankful.” No answer. We re-submitted the revised manuscript on 10.iv.2011. Silence again. It lasted till this month before the editor accepted the manuscript. Today I corrected the second proof, so hopefully the paper will be out soon. But 365+ days between submission and publication for the “world’s foremost journal in systematic zoology”?!? Ridiculous!???
As such I could live with it, if we had known beforehand this was a ‘normal’ procedure for this journal. Moreover, I had anticipated on the publication of the paper in writing another manuscript (no, it’s not going to appear in the same journal???). I have many references to species which appeared in both papers. But giving the correct reference is now difficult. Just a side-effect from this long drawn-out process.
One lesson learnt: choose the journal with care and check the credentials of the editor before you submit a manuscript.