Is the peer review system broken? Many scientists, reporters, and even editors of peer-reviewed journals have weighed in extensively on this question, so I’ll let their words speak for themselves. I did, however, think of a slight permutation to the question after seeing a recent Tweet from virologist John Schoggins about his inability to recruit a peer reviewer over the summer.
It made me wonder: Do peer-reviewed journals go through a summer slump just like we do? In other words, does it take longer for a study to be accepted, edited and published when it’s submitted in the summer?
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find a peer-reviewed study on this topic, but I did find several discussions in fora for scientists that supported my hypothesis that summer slump for the peer review process is indeed a real thing. One article proposed that many potential reviewers are on vacation during the summer. Another poster on the topic posited that the delays may actually be caused by journal editors who are away.
I also discovered a couple of blog posts published by the peer-reviewed journal conglomerates PLOS and Cell Press that explicitly mentioned summer delays. Both journals observed that submissions tend to be highest in summer months — a trend that Emilie Marcus for Cell Press guessed was a combination of theses defended in the spring, professors with newfound free time, and “inspiration/competitive angst” from the science presented at summer conferences.
All this is to say that you, the scientist, can take back some control of the process of getting a paper published. And if your paper is already stuck in the peer review summer slump, know that you’re not alone! It’ll get better in September after reviewers and editors get back in the swing of things.