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Handling Peer Review

How to Successfully Communicate with a Journal Editor


Dr. Danny M. D’Amore, Publications and Marketing Specialist

September 2021

There are several reasons you might need to correspond with a journal editor, but reaching out may seem like an intimidating feat. Journal editors are often well-recognized names in the field, and one can only imagine how busy they might be. However, it is important to remember that communication is a daily task for any editor, and that task includes correspondence with authors. As long as you follow some basic rules of correspondence, you have nothing to fear.

When should you write to a journal editor?

• There have been changes to the manuscript you have submitted. (This includes a change in authorship.)

• Your paper appears to be ‘stuck’ in the system. This is journal dependent, but if your manuscript remains in a certain stage of the review process, such as ‘awaiting editor’s decision’, for two or more weeks, it is considered acceptable to reach out to the editor for clarification.

• Your paper has been with peer reviewers for over six weeks. This is also journal dependent, but the industry standard from submission to publication is typically around 90 days. Please make sure you check your individual journal’s timeline and adjust the timing of your query accordingly.

• You wish to rebut or appeal an editor’s decision regarding your manuscript.

• You have questions or concerns about the peer review process.

How should you correspond with an editor?

If you have determined it is an appropriate time to contact a journal editor, the next step is to write; the vast majority of these communications are done in writing. Address the editor like you would any other business professional. It is important to be polite and to-the-point; remember, a journal editor is busy (like you!), so you want to be respectful of their time.

To increase your odds of a more favorable answer, consider providing a resource alongside your question. If, for example, your paper is stuck in the system or has been under peer review for a considerable length of time, provide a few additional reviewers with your query. Not only will this avoid being too curt, but you are offering a potential solution if there is indeed a problem.

If your communication is more complicated, such as disputing an editor’s decision, you want to take the time to sit down and craft a rebuttal letter. It is acceptable to disagree with peer reviewers or editorial remarks, but you must do so in a respectful and professional fashion.

No matter your reason for correspondence, make sure to remain formal, professional, and respectful. Clear, concise letters will expedite the communication process on both ends. Take the time to make sure you are following the journal’s guidelines for communication (check the author guidelines) and ask a colleague, mentor or peer for advice if needed.

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