The Pros and Cons of Multiple Journal Submissions
Every author who has attempted to publish his or her writing is all too familiar with the waiting game. The time it takes to get a response from a journal or other publisher varies widely, so while you may hear back from some within a few weeks, others will keep you waiting for six months or more, and in some cases authors will not even receive responses to queries about the review process during that time. Publishers tend to be inundated with many, many more pieces of writing than they can actually publish each year, and academic and scientific journals are no exception, so there is a logical explanation for such long wait times. However, waiting months for a reply can feel to an author a little like having his or her writing held hostage without any promise of a positive outcome. Since it is important that innovative and cutting-edge research be published as soon as possible, such delays can be deeply frustrating, and if after a six-month wait a paper needs to be submitted to a different journal and undergo another long review process, that research can become dated.
It is only natural, therefore, that an author might be tempted to submit an important article to more than one journal simultaneously, but it is essential to realise that this practice can have negative as well as positive effects for the author, and in some cases it is even considered unethical. Although there are journals that are willing to accept multiple submissions, this is far from uniform among academic and scientific publishers, so do check the guidelines to be sure it is permitted. Remember that conscientious journal editors and reviewers spend a great deal of time on each submission, generally on the assumption that the author genuinely wants to publish the article in the journal. If, for instance, an author submits a paper to several journals at once with the intention not only of achieving publication as quickly as possible, but also of publishing it in the journal that provides the best review and thus the least need for revisions, the value of the effort invested by the editors and reviewers who read the article is diminished, and the author may even ignore valid and valuable criticisms of the paper – criticisms that if taken seriously and accommodated in revisions would result in significant improvements.
However, if you do feel the need to submit your paper to more than one journal at once, be sure to inform each journal of this fact, and do be aware that multiple submissions can backfire and make your article a lower priority for editors than a paper that has been sent exclusively to one journal. It is therefore usually wiser to submit your article to one journal at a time, patiently play the waiting game and only send it to a second one if the response from the first is a simple rejection or requests revisions that you feel after careful reflection would be inappropriate for your work.
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If you are in the process of preparing an article for an academic or scientific journal, or planning one for the near future, you may well be interested in a new book, Guide to Journal Publication, which is available on our Tips and Advice on Publishing Research in Journals website.