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Proc. Royal Society B.

Fri Oct 8 10:19:52 EST 1993

  One function of this bulletin board is to provide an opportunity for sharing
by authors of their experiences (both good and bad) with journals. Collectively
this may create a general picture of which journals are doing a good job.

  I recently decided to submit a paper to P.R.Soc. B. Things going for this
particular journal were:

              i) A colleague had reported that his manuscript was handled
             ii) Membership of the Royal Society (UK) did not automatically
                 confer publication privileges (compare Proc.Nat.Acad.Sci.USA).
            iii) The journal is "non-profit", meaning that any profits are
                 presumably ploughed back into science.
             iv) Examination of an issue for the dates of receipt of paper,
                 relative to the time of publication, indicated few delays in
                 handling of manuscripts.

   So the paper was duly submitted, and was, indeed,quickly reviewed, and
rejected. The comments of the two reviewers were provided so that I was given
the opportunity to revise the manuscript and reply to their comments. So far so
good as regards the conduct of the journal.

   I revised the manuscript and resubmitted (by courier to save further delay).
To my amazement, two week later I receive the revised manuscript back by air
mail stating "that unless you formally resubmit a revised version which takes
into account the referees comments...we cannot reconsider your paper"!

   The revised manuscript sat, as is, on my desk for about a month while I
tried to fathom by exchange of FAX letters why the manuscript had not been sent
out for rereview. At last, as a result of a telephone call, I received
assurance that if the manuscript was resubmitted, this time it would not be
sent straight back. However it would be redated as if it were a fresh manuscipt
and would be given a new manuscipt number. So I picked the manuscript up off of
my desk where it had sat for a month, and without further revision, sent it off
again by courier (11th Aug.) An acknowledgement dated 24th August was
eventually sent by air mail. A further letter dated 27th September, informed me
that the reviewers had not changed their opinion and that the original
manuscript and figures would be returned by SEA MAIL.

    No longer wishing to continue bashing my head against a brick wall, I
decided to resubmit elsewhere, but to my dismay realized that the original
figures would need to be reproduced again at considerable expense because the
originals would not be back for another month or more, depending on the
efficiency of nautical delivery.

    SO. What went wrong?

    Clearly there was some sort of mix-up in the Editorial Office. I suspect,
the problem is that the secretariat of P.R.Soc. B. is in London, whereas the
Editor is located elsewhere. There is also an undue pressure for economy
regarding postal charges and insufficient sensitivity to the desire of an
author to get a work published expeditiously. Finally, if the redating of
revised papers is a general practice, then readers are given a false impression
of the average time from  receipt to publication. Most other journals, place
the dates of initial receipt and of the final receipt of the revised version on
the published paper.
                      Sincerely,  Don Forsdyke
                                  Discussion Leader. Bionet.Journals.Note.

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