Behind the scenes @Biotropica: Editor’s Report (Part 3). Number of submissions, acceptance rates, time-to-decision, & more!

The first two sections [one, two] of the annual Biotropica Editors’ Report that we prepared for the ATBC Council & Editorial Board on Volume 45 (Editorial Year 2013) summarized some of the data provided by our publisher Wiley on who has access you journal, the number of authors reading our papers, some of the ways we try to measure our impact on the field.  In some ways it is the more technical side of running a journal with a publisher (in our case Wiley), and therefore may not be of interest to most readers or authors of a journal.  Below we start to get at some of the really interesting data, including details on who submits to us, the decisions we make, and the time-to-decision. The next post will elaborate on the countires the authors who submit to us and whose papers we published are based – you will be amazed by the number of countries from which we get submissions, though perhaps not which countries submit the most manuscripts to us.  However, this information below is perhaps the stuff most people are really curious about, and about which I hear the most misinformation.  These are the types of data I wish more journals would make available, which is part of the reason I decided to make our annual report publicly available. So without further delay…

III. Volume 45 Published Articles, Submissions, & Decisions.

  • We processed 450 decisions in 2013 (compared to 521 during 2012). This includes original submissions and revisions.
  • In 2013 Biotropica published 93 articles (N = 769 pages total). The average length of Standard Papers in Vol. 45 was 8.5 pages, which is below our target of 9 pages (max) for these articles. This figure does not include Commentaries and Insights (typically 4 pages long), Reviews (2013 average = 13.5 pages) and Book Reviews (1 page).
  • The distribution of published articles is skewed to Papers (81%; Table 1). However, we have successfully increased the number of reviews we publish –published 6 in 2013 compared to <1 per year in 2007-2012. Jaboury Ghazoul has been appointed Reviews Editor to help solicit reviews and streamline the review process of these submissions with the goal of increasing the number of reviews published in 2014
TABLE 1. Accepted papers by category (manuscripts receiving a decision in 2013).
  2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Short Communications 20 18
Commentaries 6 7 9 3 3 1 2
Insights 2 6 9 8 5 2
Reviews 1 1 1 1 1 0 6
Papers 68 80 85 71 84 73 48
Special Section articles 11 0 9 25 0 0 0
Book Reviews 4 5 4 1
TOTAL 106 108 110 113 101 83 59
  • We received 356 new submissions in 2013, down from 411 in 2012 (Table 2). However, submissions for the first 6 mos. of 2014 are up over the same period in previous years: 2014: N = 213 submissions, 2013, N = 170, 2012, N = 208, 2011, N = 233.The distribution of submissions is skewed to Papers (86% of submissions, Table 2)
TABLE 2. Distribution of original submissions by article category.
2008 % 2009 % 2010 % 2011 % 2012 % 2013 %
Commentaries 7 2 14 4 32 7 17 4 8 2 8 2
Insights 32 8 37 9 32 7 37 8 38 10 28 8
Reviews 6 2 7 2 4 1 11 2 9 2 11 3
Papers 342 88 336 85 377 85 387 84 350 85 306 86
Book Reviews       7 2 6 1 3 1
TOTAL 387   394   394   459   411   356  
  • Editors rejected 17% of manuscripts without further review within 10 days of submission (down from 34% of all original submission in 2012). This decision is made on manuscripts that have obviously flawed methods, or that are too narrow in scope, too descriptive in nature, or not sufficiently relevant to tropical biology and conservation. Such decisions are not taken lightly, but serve to reduce the burden on reviewers and Subject Editors while providing a rapid decision to authors allowing them to quickly resubmit their work elsewhere. We strive to provide authors a clear reason for these decisions.
  • Time to decision: In 2013 the average time from submission to first decision was 48 days — up from 42 days in 2012 but still very respectable when compared to peer journals (Table 3). The time to the longest decision was 152 days (down from 167 in 2012 and 252 in 2011). We continue to consider anything beyond 100 days unacceptable.
TABLE 3. Decision times on manuscripts between 2008 and 2012. (Based on submissions with decision made between 1 Jan 2013 and 31 Dec 2013).
2008 Average Minimum Maximum Median
Days to first decision(N = 516) 50.6 0 215 46
2009 Average Minimum Maximum Median
Days to first decision(N = 394) 46.2 0 178 43
2010 Average Minimum Maximum Median
Days to first decision(N = 445) 45.3 0 175 43.0
2011 Average Minimum Maximum Median
Days to first decision(N = 453) 49 0 252 45
2012 Average Minimum Maximum Median
Days to first decision
(N = 405)
42 0 167 38
2013 Average Minimum Maximum Median
Days to first decision(N = 350) 48 0 152 48

 

 

 

  • 60 manuscripts received decisions in 10 days or less (17%); 120 received decisions in 30 days or less (34%); and 325 received decisions in 100 days or less (93%; Figure 4).
FIGURE 4. Percentage of manuscripts taking between 0–30 days, 31–60 days, 61–90, 91–120, and 151–180 days to reach first decision during 2012 and 2013.

FIGURE 4. Percentage of manuscripts taking between 0–30 days, 31–60 days, 61–90, 91–120, and 151–180 days to reach first decision during 2012 and 2013.

 

 

 

  • First decisions on manuscripts submitted in 2013: 72% of the manuscripts submitted in 2013 were rejected, with 1/3 of these receiving an invitation to resubmit a new revised version (Table 4). 20.7% of the submissions were deemed to need Major Revision, while 6.6 were either accepted or only required Minor Revision.
TABLE 4. Distribution of first decisions made on original manuscripts submitted in 2013.
Decision 2009 % 2010 % 2011 % 2012 % 2013 %
Accept 6 1.5 18 4.0 9 2.0 13 3.2 2 0.6
Minor Rev. 43 10.9 34 7.6 28 6.2 16 4.0 21 6.0
Major Rev. 72 18.3 83 18.7 68 15.0 55 13.6 73 20.7
Reject+Resub. 54 13.5 50 11.2 74 16.3 58 14.3 76 21.6
Reject 222 55.8 260 58.4 275 60.6 263 64.9 180 51.1
(Withdrawn) 4
Total 397   445   453   405   356

 

 

  • Submission with Prior Reviews: At the end of 2012 we introduced a system whereby manuscripts rejected from other journals could be submitted together with the earlier reviews and authors’ responses to them, and these would be fast-tracked through the review process. Several submitting authors have taken up this option, but the mechanism is still too new to draw any conclusions about its success.

 

 

So what do you think?  How do we compare to other journals?  I know, it’s almost impossible to answer that question because most other journals don’t make these data available (except perhaps the average number of days to decision).  I’m hoping our doing so will encourage other Editors to do the same.  I don’t think time-to-decision (TTD) and acceptance rates are the most important reasons to choose a journal with which to publish, and we can certainly improve our TTD and are working hard to do so, but I’m hoping the the transparency of our editorial process will help convince you to continue submitting your best work to us (or send us your first MS if you have yet to give us a try).

EB

 

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