The Waiting Game: How Long Will a Scientific Journal Take to Publish Your Manuscript?

Julia Barber, PharmD
3 min readFeb 20, 2021

After the substantial time it takes to conduct a study and write a manuscript, many authors are eager to get their manuscript published. They want to minimize the time in the publishing process and get their results in a journal while they are still fresh. But how long does it take from the time a manuscript is submitted to a journal until it is actually published in a volume of that journal?

It depends heavily on the journal.

Initial feedback, especially rejection, can arrive quickly. If your manuscript is rejected on the first pass, you will typically be notified within days to weeks. So, a delayed response can be good news.

If your manuscript is accepted, the process will of course be much longer. In 2020, Conpher found that academic manuscript publication can take roughly one month to one year. Most papers are published within four to five months of submission.

Specific Publishers

Elsevier quotes three months to make an article that is under review available online. After an additional two months, this version is corrected and included in a volume of the journal. The whole process involves an initial evaluation, a senior editor evaluation, a peer review process, and a final decision.

If you are fortunate enough to get published in a high-impact journal, you may be thinking it will take even longer because of the volume of submissions these in-demand journals receive. However, it can sometimes be quicker. In 2020, JAMA took an average 18 days to accept a manuscript and approximately one month total for online publication.

Some journals have a fast-track process.

The Lancet is one such journal. Their fast-track process is reserved for papers that do not require extensive review. The Lancet quotes a timeline of four to six weeks for fast-tracked publication.

Science also has an accelerated publication process. They refer to this process as First Release. Science typically takes four to eight weeks to publish a manuscript. However, certain manuscripts can be published faster with minimal editing as a First Release article.

Preprint services

Preprint services are a way for you to get the results of your research to the public before or while waiting to be accepted for publication. Using a preprint service, such as medRxiv, your research can be online in less than one week.

However, these resources are not peer reviewed or edited. Furthermore, you can only submit to these services if your manuscript has not been accepted by a journal. MedRxiv will not remove your article after it is accepted to a journal.

Managing the timeline

One action you can take to know what to expect in the publication process is to research the typical publication timeline for the specific journal in which you want to publish your manuscript. As previously mentioned, the timeline varies.

Getting an estimation of how long publication with a specific journal will take can ease some anxiety about the process.

If this information is available on the journal website, it will likely be in a section called author guidelines, information for authors, or similar title. If not, contact the journal for more information.

One of the ways you can accelerate the time to publication is responding to reviewer comments in a timely fashion. This is one of the only steps that is actually in your control, and it is an opportunity to accelerate at least a portion of the process.

In addition, try to choose the most appropriate journal in terms of scope and influence to delay early rejections and the need to submit to multiple journals. For more tips on how to avoid early manuscript rejection, read 5 Tips to Avoid Academic Manuscript Rejection.

If you have any questions or comments about the publication timeline, I would enjoy hearing from you.

If you like the text you read above and would like to have the same editor review your work, contact me about my editing and proofreading services at PharmDEdits@gmail.com or message me on my Facebook page.

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Julia Barber, PharmD

I am a licensed pharmacist, medical editor, and medical writer. Follow me on IG @PharmDEdits and Facebook at Facebook.com/PharmDEdits.