Saturday, May 12, 2018

Snapshot of the Publication and Review Process as an Assistant Professor

I have just completed my third year as an Assistant Professor. I have kept a spreadsheet for the three years of all of my journal submissions and the results (desk reject, referee reject, revise and resubmit, or accept, with dates for nearly everything). I had almost no idea what the publication process would be like when I finished grad school, and would have loved to see such a spreadsheet. So I thought I'd share some summary statistics in case this can help some new researchers or give students an idea of what the publication process is like.

I have no idea whether my experience is representative. Keep in mind, I am at a liberal arts college, albeit one that values research. Stefano DellaVigna and David Card have the actual statistics on publication in the top 5 journals. I have not published in those journals. To protect editorial privacy, I am not going to name any journals specifically or report on submission and decision dates.

My spreadsheet includes 15 papers that have been submitted at least once. Of these:
-7 are now published or accepted for publication.
-3 have "revise and resubmit" status.
-The rest are either under review or in the file drawer.

I made a total of 39 distinct submissions. This means counting the first submission of a particular paper to a particular journal, NOT counting revision rounds.
- 12 resulted in desk rejection (i.e. rejected by the editor without going to referees).
-Counting revision rounds, I made 49 submissions.

For the 7 papers that are published or accepted:
-5 were accepted at the first journal to which I submitted. Of these, 3 required revisions.
-One was accepted (after revisions) at the third journal to which I submitted.
-One was accepted (after revisions) at the EIGHTH journal to which I submitted (following four desk rejections and three referee rejections). I am proud of that paper and do not agree with some rules of thumb I've heard about giving up on a paper after X attempts. I think it depends a lot on the paper.

There is substantial selection bias in the above stats on number of submissions per publication, since those are the stats for my papers that were quickest to publish. For the 8 papers that are not published, obviously none were accepted at the first journal to which I submitted! If/when these get published, my average number of submissions per publication will increase substantially. Three of them have already been submitted to at least 5 places.

An interesting note is that I wrote exactly the same number of referee reports as I received. I felt like I was writing a ton of referee reports, but I guess it was pretty fair. I do think I wrote more words of referee reports than I received!

I will update again in a few years. I anticipate some changes as I gain experience with research and knowing where to submit papers, and working on different types of projects and coauthored papers.