Manuscript review status

My experience with ‘Manuscript Central’ has been somewhat frustrating. It is an online system for manuscript management. Many journals are now using this system for authors to submit their manuscripts, for editors to handle them and for reviewers to review manuscripts. It is generally easy to use. However, my recent experience has told me otherwise.

I submitted a manuscript to a journal in the field of evolutionary biology on May 12. I was able to choose an Associate Editor, who would decide if the manuscript will be reviewed and also invite reviewers. Immediately following the submission, the status appeared as ‘awaiting AE assignment’. About a week later, the status changed to ‘awaiting reviewer selection’. I thought the Associate Editor must have done something to the manuscript. However, the status description contains some ambiguity – has it already gone out for review or is it still waiting to be assigned to reviewers? I waited for about a month, but nothing happened. It was still showing the same status ‘awaiting reviewer selection’. On June 15, I wrote an email to the managing editor of the journal to inquire on the status of the manuscript. The managing editor was quite responsive. She passed the question on to the handling editor, who wrote an email to the Associate Editor who was supposed to handle the manuscript. About two days later, I got an email back from the managing editor, which said the Associate Editor had been unresponsive and another Associate Editor had to be assigned to process the manuscript. On Jun 19, the status of the manuscript changed to ‘awaiting reviewer assignment’, and it is now ‘awaiting reviewer scores’. I assume the latter means reviewers already accepted to invitations to do the review.

To sum up, I have seen at least four status update categories used in ‘Manuscript Central’ and my interpretations of their meanings are:

  • Awaiting AE assignment – Manuscript has not been looked at by the Associate Editor chosen.
  • Awaiting Reviewer Selection – Manuscript already gone to the Associate Editor and he/she is in the process to select reviewers
  • Awaiting Reviewer Assignment – The Associate Editor has assigned the manuscript or sent invitations to reviewers. Waiting for the reviewers to accept the invitation for review.
  • Awaiting Reviewer Scores – Reviewers have accepted invitations and started reviewing. Depending on the journal, this period can take variable amount of time. It is commonly is one-month, wit some journals requiring a even shorter time.

There should also be a 5th category for post-review decision.
I can’t be sure about the accuracy of my interpretations. There would be more status updates as the manuscript reviewing process proceeds. I just hope that the ‘Manuscript Central’ system can provide some description of the status updates so that authors know exactly what is going on with their manuscripts.

The following is added based on comment by Navneet on 03/25/2014. It is not clear what journal is.

  • Awaiting admin checklist – Administrator checks if the paper contains all necessary parts and is suitable for a review.
  • Awaiting AE assignement – Editor-in-chief (EIC) chooses the associate editor (AE) responsible for the review process.
  • Awaiting reviewer selection – AE invites at least two reviewers.
  • Awaiting reviewer assignment – Reviewers decide if they accept or decline the invitation (in the second case AE invites another reviewer).
  • Awaiting reviewer scores – Reviewers are working on their reviews.
  • Awaiting AE recommendation – The paper received the sufficient number of reviews (usually 2) and, on their basis, AE makes recommendation to EIC.
  • Awaiting EIC decision – Taking into account the reviewers′comments, AE recommendation and his own opinion, EIC makes a final decision about the paper (accept – revision – reject).