Since this summer, five manuscripts where I am the lead senior author and my different group members are first author were finally wrapped up and submitted. Most of these papers were supposed to go in before the arrival of Smurf, but I felt really ill for a long time, so they didn't. Now I am just happy for my very patient students and postdocs, who were really great sports about the delay. Among these manuscripts, the earliest submission has been accepted and is about to appear online any day now, and four are still in review. These are all comprehensive manuscripts (i.e. quite long) and on considerably different topics from one another.
One of them has been in active review (as in -- with different referees) for several months now and no report has been produced yet. Overall, the paper has been sent to N referees (N is approximately three times the number of needed reports), of whom N-1 have so far declined to review, having sat on the paper between a few days and several weeks before eventually deciding they couldn't do it. I am quite surprised by this development, because the paper is not very complicated; I have had manuscripts that were considerably more technically difficult, with lots of math to go through and therefore not the most scintillating read, and all such manuscripts reviewed just fine. This manuscript is not excessively long or difficult (mathematically), it's well-written (of course I am biased), it is on a topic in a very active area of research, and it has a solid connection to experiment. This is a reputable society journal, and they do ask that you provide a list of potential reviewers, which we did. Why it would be so hard to find some people willing and able to review it is really puzzling. I have to think that this is a failure on the editorial end, which would be uncharacteristic of this journal, probably combined with a very busy time of year for everyone (October submission window at the NSF). Other theories?
On another submission, we received the first report only 3 days after the review was solicited (the online system enables you to track when individual reviews come in). This is the fastest review I have ever received, and its speed is even more remarkable because the paper is long. Now, it's going to be another 3-4 weeks (if the other reviewers are conscientious) before all the reports are in, but in the meantime we can play the guessing game: is the super-speedy review positive or negative?
I invite you to share your own adventures from the manuscript submission and review process.