Article submissions and journal response times

This is an issue I have discussed before, that of the time taken by journals to review articles. Most recently, I’ve been quite fortunate – I received my last response within four weeks (it was, alas, in the negative, but all the better to know quickly). I set up a wiki some time ago to survey the situation and form a reference, http://scratchpad.wikia.com/wiki/History_Journal_Response_Times

The posted comments already suggest a pretty dire situation at some journals. And even the “quicker” journals boast turnaround times that would make a scientist blanch. However, I have been told that some scientific journals were also slow until the custom came in of printing the date submitted and date accepted on the bottom of each article. This would be a useful development in history, where even (and perhaps especially!) a journal that is quick to review may have a backlog of a couple of years’ worth of articles waiting to be published. It would also serve to publicly shame the chronically slow into reforming their practices (or at least help show scholars which journals to avoid!).

As one anonymous user commented on the wiki about waiting an inexcusable period for a response from a journal “I’m trying to build a career here”. The timing of article acceptances can be crucial for those seeking promotion and tenure: and in today’s climate, even getting a first job. Particularly as more universities seem to be moving to models of citation indices and impact factors to judge a scholar’s merit, a practice such as printing dates of submission on published articles could go some way to demonstrating the time lag faced in the humanities, as well as for applicants to demonstrate steady output – which may not be otherwise reflected by the timing of articles finally arriving in print.