Editors have very complex tasks and high responsibilities. In general, they are chosen leaders and experts in a field of study. Thus, they are expected to lead a sector of that scientific community, and their function is to serve as gate-keepers of the quality of submissions to journals whose editorial boards they serve because of their ethical and professional image, and positive and open engagement with their peers. Publishing a scientific paper can be an arduous task and in some cases a lengthy one. However, any delay in this process not only serves as a form of stress for authors, it may also disadvantage them by giving their competition an unfair advantage with a head start in the publishing rat race. Consequently, editors who oversee a process that takes an excessive or unreasonable amount of time should be held accountable. In this paper, we propose some suggested time limits for each stage of the publishing process. These should be carefully monitored by the editors, in close collaboration with the publisher, to ensure a fair and timely process that is realistic and reasonable. With clearer guidelines, authors can thus reduce their stress levels by knowing when to expect decisions, and can thus make their journal selection by keeping such factors in mind, and thus hedge their risks and better manage their time. Authors who wait almost indefinitely, or for excessively long periods of time, are victims of a lack of professionalism. Furthermore, editors who fail to communicate delays, effectively or at all, or who fail to offer any sufficient or heartfelt apology should be characterized as acting with professional negligence, if not misconduct. Only when the rules of engagement are fair, strict, clear and well defined can authors expect the publishing system to progress smoothly and professionally.
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The authors thank Farrokh Habibzadeh, past President of the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME), and editorial consultant for The Lancet, for fruitful discussion on this topic.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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Teixeira da Silva, J.A., Dobránszki, J. Excessively Long Editorial Decisions and Excessively Long Publication Times by Journals: Causes, Risks, Consequences, and Proposed Solutions. Pub Res Q 33, 101–108 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12109-016-9489-9