Getting research published can be a long and laborious process with scientists often encountering numerous delays. Many researchers feel like these delays are getting worse but Daniel Himmelstein has looked at the data to see if this is actually true.
Using PubMed, Himmelstein looked at the time from article submission to acceptance and time from acceptance to online publication for roughly 3 million articles each. It became apparent that, overall, the delay in acceptance has hovered around 100 days for the last 35 years and did not appear to be worsening, while, as may be expected, time from acceptance to publication has decreased since the introduction of online publication, and had stabilised at around 25 days in recent years. Obviously, this varies with each journal and you can find out how your favourite journal compares here.
Making research available in a timely manner is as important now as always. While there are some limitations to this analysis, it indicates there is still room for improvement. One factor that impacts the time to acceptance is the extent to which authors shop around journals by submitting to those with higher impact factors first before moving down the journal hierarchy. The peer-review process can also add months to the publication process, with reviewers requesting more and more from authors in the form of additional experiments and data to produce the “perfect experiment”. While such revisions can improve the overall quality of the paper, it often doesn’t change the main conclusions of the study.
The dawn of alternative online and digital publishing platforms may speed up this whole process. One such approach that is already embraced by the physics community is the use of preprints. Here, authors can make their research immediately available online in a citable and trackable manner, and gain feedback on draft manuscripts prior to submission to conventional journals. In addition, open online platforms, such as Zenodo, PeerJ, eLife, Thinklab, and F1000, promise to increase transparency in research and ultimately accelerate scientific progress.