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Changing norms for peer review deadlines

- March 7, 2011

When I started working as a peer reviewer, about ten years ago, the norm was that reviews were due within about eight weeks of receipt of the manuscript (this may have been a hangover of the days when one had to get a copy of the manuscript via regular mail, and respond using same). Over the intervening decade, I’ve seen the norm fall from eight weeks to six weeks to four, with mixed feelings (as a reviewer, I try to review as much as I reasonably can, even when I am pressed for time; as an author of course I appreciate getting reviews back as rapidly as possible). But last week, I got my first request (having already agreed to review a manuscript for a middling good political science journal) to have the review back within two weeks. This seems to me to be getting to the point where I would actively want to start refusing reviews (there are periods of my life when I can get to a review within two weeks; there are also periods – and more of them – when I cannot). I appreciate the pressures that editors are under, but would be interested to know whether this is becoming established as a new expectation, what people think reasonable and unreasonable expectations might be, how many pieces people tend to review in a year (I usually have 20-30 on my plate) usw.