How Long Does Peer Review Take?

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Peer review is a fundamental part of journal publishing. It involves subjecting research findings and manuscripts to evaluation by other experts in the field before they can be published in academic journals.

The main purpose of peer review is to ensure research quality and credibility. It helps validate that a study’s methods, analysis, and conclusions are appropriate, scientifically sound, and can withstand scrutiny.

How long does peer review take?

The peer review process typically begins when a researcher submits a manuscript describing their work to a journal. The journal’s editors send the manuscript to a few reviewers (2-4, depending on the journal/publisher) who are experts in that field.

The reviewers provide a critical assessment, looking for limitations, potential ethical issues, appropriate statistical analyses, soundness of conclusions based on the results, and other factors that determine the rigor and validity of the research.

Based on the reviewers’ feedback, editors decide whether to accept, reject or ask authors to revise and resubmit the manuscript. This process safeguards the literature against the publication of unsound science.

Peer review is important because it improves the quality of published research. It catches errors, identifies inconsistencies or flaws in logic, and ensures evidence supports the conclusions. This prevents the dissemination of studies with improper methodology or analyses. It also provides constructive feedback to authors to improve their manuscripts.

Overall, peer review maintains high publication standards, providing credibility and value to research. It ensures that only studies strong enough to withstand scrutiny get published to add to the scientific body of knowledge.

Understanding the Peer Review Process

The peer review process is critical to scientific research and academic publishing. It helps ensure that studies published in academic journals meet high quality, validity, and ethics standards.

Here is an overview of the typical peer review process:


The process begins when a researcher (the author) submits a manuscript describing their study to a journal. They often submit to a journal that publishes similar work to their study.

Initial Editorial Evaluation

An editor at the journal first evaluates the manuscript to check whether it falls within the scope and aims of the journal. They may reject it outright or send it for peer review.

Reviewer Selection

If the manuscript passes initial editorial checks, the editor selects appropriate reviewers who are experts in that field of study. High-quality reviews require reviewers with the right expertise.

Review Process

Reviewers critically evaluate the manuscript and recommend whether it should be published. They assess factors like the soundness of methods, validity of results, and clarity of writing. Reviewers submit their comments to the editor.

Editor’s Decision

The editor considers the reviewers’ feedback and makes a decision. They can accept the manuscript, request revisions and resubmission, or reject it. The editor communicates the decision and reviewer comments to the author.

Revision by Author

If revisions are requested, the author revises the manuscript accordingly and resubmits. The editor may send it out for another round of reviews.


Once accepted, the manuscript goes through editing, proofreading and formatting before being published in the journal. The peer review process aims to ensure published papers are of high quality.

The key roles are the author, editor, and reviewers. Their careful collaboration makes peer review the “gold standard” of research validation.

So, How Long Does Peer Review Take?

As an essential component in journal publishing, peer review does take time. This section will overview the typical peer review duration and discuss the factors influencing this timeframe.

Typical Duration of Peer Review

On average, the peer review process takes 2 to 6 months from initial submission to final decision. However, this timeframe substantially varies depending on the journal, field of study, and other factors.

For example, peer review for a computer science journal may only take a few weeks, a review for a medical journal can take between one and two months, and a humanities journal may need up to four months to complete.

In my publishing company, typically peer review process takes between one and six months. Each journal we publish (we manage over a dozen scholarly journals) provides information on the timeline estimate of peer review.

Keep in mind these are just rough estimates. Peer review duration can vary widely, even within the same field or journal. There are reviewers who can work really fast in delivering their verdict. Some of the reviewers I know can finish a sound review within half a day. But these are exceptions.

Factors Influencing Peer Review Duration

Several key factors impact the timeframe of peer review:

  • Journal field and scope – As mentioned, review times differ across disciplines.
  • Journal prestige/selectivity – More prestigious journals often have longer review times. We can expect longer times for reputable journals like Nature, Science, and The New England Journal of Medicine.
  • Reviewer availability and responsiveness – Reviewers are unpaid volunteers, so availability varies.
  • The number of revision rounds – More back-and-forth lengthens the process.
  • Editor decision time – Editors have varying workloads.

In essence, peer review duration depends on a mix of journal policies, reviewer-related factors, and author responsiveness. The next sections will delve into the specific peer review phases and examine why the process is so lengthy.

Phases of Peer Review and Their Timeframes

The peer review process can be broken down into several key phases, each with its typical timeframe:


This initial phase involves the author submitting their manuscript to the journal. The journal editor then conducts an initial check to ensure the manuscript meets the journal’s scope and formatting guidelines. This phase usually takes 1-2 weeks.

Editor Screening

The editor reads the abstract and conducts an initial assessment of the manuscript’s suitability for the journal. They may desk reject manuscripts that are out of scope or have major issues. Editor screening typically takes 1-4 weeks.

Reviewer Assignment

The editor identifies and invites potential reviewers. Factors like reviewer availability can affect the time to finalize reviewers, usually 2-6 weeks.


Reviewers are given a set timeframe (commonly 2-6 weeks) to read and critique the manuscript thoroughly. Reviewer tardiness can delay this phase.


If revisions are requested, the author is given time to address reviewer comments and resubmit an updated manuscript. The revision timeframe varies greatly but often takes 2-12 weeks.

Final Decision

The editor evaluates the revised manuscript and reviewer feedback to make a final accept/reject decision. This usually takes 1-4 weeks but can be longer if additional review is needed.

In summary, a typical peer review process may take 3-6 months from initial submission to final decision. However, substantial delays can occur at any phase due to reviewer availability, author revisions, and other variables.

Why Does Peer Review Take Long?

The peer review process can take a significant amount of time to complete. There are several reasons why peer review can be lengthy:

Finding Qualified Reviewers

Editors must identify appropriate reviewers with the expertise to evaluate a manuscript properly. This can be challenging, especially for specialized or interdisciplinary research topics with fewer potential expert reviewers. Contacting and confirming available reviewers also adds time.

Reviewer Workloads

Reviewers are often busy with their research and responsibilities. Fitting time for a thorough review amidst their workload can lead to delays. Reviewers may need deadline extensions to accommodate their schedules.

Rigorous Reviewing

A robust peer review requires carefully reading the manuscript, checking analyses, and providing constructive feedback. This takes considerable time, often 5-10 hours per manuscript. Reviewers must find time in their schedule to dedicate to this process.

Revisions by Authors

After receiving reviewer comments, authors need time to perform additional analyses, revise their manuscript, and respond to feedback. This revision process can involve multiple review rounds, substantially lengthening the publication timeline.

Limited Reviewer Pool

Few scientists may be qualified to review manuscripts thoroughly for highly specialized research areas. This bottleneck restricts the speed at which submissions can be evaluated.

The extended timeframe of peer review can frustrate authors who want to share their work rapidly. However, the thoroughness of the process helps ensure that published research is high quality and impactful. Improving review efficiency without sacrificing quality is an important goal for the scientific community.

Tips to Speed Up the Peer Review Process

For authors looking to expedite the review of their manuscript, some practical steps can be taken:

For Authors:

  • Carefully review the journal’s aims and scope before submission to ensure your manuscript fits well.
  • Follow the journal’s formatting and submission guidelines exactly.
  • Suggest 5-6 appropriate reviewers who are experts in the field and do not have conflicts of interest.
  • Write a strong cover letter emphasizing your work’s importance, novelty, and relevance.
  • Revise the manuscript thoroughly before submission – check for clarity, grammar, and logical flow, and respond to reviewer comments if it is a resubmission.
  • Be responsive during the review process – address reviewer comments thoughtfully and submit revisions promptly.

For Editors and Reviewers:

  • Editors should identify qualified reviewers quickly and set reasonable deadlines for review.
  • Reviewers should accept invitations promptly if they have the expertise and time to provide a thoughtful review.
  • Reviewers should provide constructive feedback on strengths/weaknesses rather than demanding additional experiments.
  • Editors should facilitate discussion between reviewers to resolve disparate comments.
  • Journals should offer incentives like free subscriptions to reliable reviewers who submit timely reviews.

Authors, editors, and reviewers working together to optimize efficiency at each stage can reduce the overall timeframe of peer review. However, quality should not be sacrificed for speed – a balanced approach is ideal.


As we have seen throughout this write-up, peer review, as a crucial component of scientific publishing, can often be time-consuming. Understanding the typical timeframe of peer review, from initial submission to final publication, is important for authors, reviewers, and editors alike.

We have analyzed the peer review process step-by-step and examined the factors that influence the duration of each phase. While individual journals may vary, a typical first-round review can take 2-6 months from submission to editorial decision.

Revisions, re-reviews, and production can add several more months. The full publication timeline spans 6-12 months, sometimes longer for more prestigious journals.

Lengthy peer review is due to the voluntary nature of reviewing, reviewer workloads, rigor and depth of feedback required, and the various quality checks in place. While it may sometimes cause frustration, this duration aims to uphold scientific literature’s high standards and validity.

As authors, we can expedite peer review by thoroughly preparing our manuscripts beforehand, selecting the right journal, and responding to reviews promptly and comprehensively. Reviewers and editors also play a role by providing timely, constructive feedback. However, patience and understanding are key, as quality must not be compromised.

In conclusion, gaining insight into the timeframe of peer review helps us navigate this integral process successfully. The wait can be worthwhile when the published paper positively impacts the scientific community. With realistic expectations, constructive collaboration, and a shared commitment to quality, we can uphold peer review’s essential role in scholarly communication.

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