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Is there any data of the expected length of publication cycle with respect to different peer-reviewed journals in theoretical physics?

I know that the length depends on many things, including the referees, the author and the submitted paper itself. However, clearly some journals have it shorter or longer. While a long response time is not necessary a disadvantage (the referees may actually care to understand paper thoroughly (as it happens commonly in mathematics), while the preprint is on the arXiv anyway), it may influence decision of sending the paper to one journal or another (along with the Impact Factor, the Eigenfactor, etc).

Of course always it is possible to perform a reconnaissance in force. However, with little or no prior experience with a particular journal (1 data point is not enough to estimate the variance) it could be difficult to estimate if it is going to take a few month or 2 years (with all its consequences).

So is there any list of times (mean, variance, median... or the full data) for any of the steps in the following sequence $$\text{submitted} \rightarrow \text{reviews}\ (\rightarrow \text{response}) \rightarrow \text{accepted} \rightarrow \text{available}$$ for different peer-reviewed journals?

EDIT:

To clarify: I am not interested in mean(/variance of) acceptance time averaging all journals in TP. Rather, I am asking for a list of time vs journal.

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I get the impression that the variance is huge. I'm not sure an average will be very meaningful. –  Joe Fitzsimons Nov 11 '11 at 18:07
    
@JoeFitzsimons: Well, for me the most informative is the sumbitted->reviews time. And I guess it has much lower variance (as it excludes time for revision, fighting with co-authors, fighting with referees, etc). –  Piotr Migdal Nov 12 '11 at 11:37
    
that's the time I meant. It really depends on the referees you get. –  Joe Fitzsimons Nov 12 '11 at 15:13
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closed as off topic by Manishearth Dec 17 '12 at 21:06

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2 Answers

This is indeed a random variable due to the different procedures adopted by different journals. Just to make an example, Editors of Physical Reviews often decides for a single referee, with a possible option for a further one, while IOP Editors are obliged to select always two referees introducing often delays due to availability. So, due to such different practices, it is really difficult to have a homogeneous sample to do statistics. Besides, one should also consider that letter journals are aimed to speed up these procedures asking for a report in a relatively short time.

On a personal ground, I avoid to use a speed criterion to choice a journal to publish but I prefer other aspects that could be a lot more important than this.

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Indeed it is a random variable. My questions are about its mean and variance (so statistical quantities), not about a single realization. –  Piotr Migdal Nov 11 '11 at 11:22
    
I am pretty sure that the IOP rule is not universal for IOP journals. In JHEP, for example, the editor can accept a paper without sending it to any referees. –  José Figueroa-O'Farrill Nov 11 '11 at 11:37
    
I have never seen such a behavior as, generally speaking, an editor cannot act as a referee even if he/she has the proper skill and expertize. Have you experienced that? –  Jon Nov 11 '11 at 13:06
    
@Piotr. Sorry for my bad explanation. I meant that there is such a wild variation between different journals, due to different editorial procedures, that if you want such a statistics you will need a more homogeneous sample. E.g., what is the average acceptance time for a letter journal? What is the acceptance time for Physical Reviews? And so on. Based on my experience, for some journals I had to wait more than one year to see a referee's report. Journals like these would bias your sample. –  Jon Nov 11 '11 at 13:10
    
@Jon: I didn't mean one quantity for all TP journals (it would be pretty much meaningless, as you have pointed out). I am interested in a table: journal / acceptance time. Of course anything with 'Letters', 'Rapid' or 'Express' usually has a shorter time. –  Piotr Migdal Nov 11 '11 at 13:29
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For the APS journals (Phys. Rev.), you can find for each paper that is published when it was submitted and when it was published. It usually takes between a couple of months for "easy accepts" and maybe one year for papers with a lot of back and forth between the authors and the referees.

In fact, here is a document where you will find all those data (and even more) for APS journals http://www.phys.nthu.edu.tw/~colloquium/2009F/T2.pdf

Spoiler alert for PRL for 2008 (from submission to acceptance):

  • median: 118 days
  • mean: 139 days
  • min: 7 days
  • max: 992 days
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For the APS journals it is exactly the thing I had (except for the fact, that min/max are rather curiosities than time one should hope for/be afraid of), thanks! The other data is interesting as well. –  Piotr Migdal Nov 12 '11 at 11:29
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