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Dealing with unresponsive journals

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In our newest "how can we help you?" thread, Anon writes: (Part of the reason I haven't been super alarmed by this issue is that the paper in question is a short side project sort of thing rather than my main research project, which has been doing better than this paper.) But anyways: say a paper of yours has been under review for about a year, and that you started checking in on its status after the four month mark, and you haven't gotten a reply to your 3-4 short, polite inquiries that you've sent since then. Is it fine to just send an email saying "I am withdrawing this MS", and then to proceed as if the MS has been withdrawn? I get the impression I shouldn't expect a reply (or for anyone to read my email), which makes me a bit worried about effectively double-submitting when I resubmit the paper elsewhere. But on the other hand, this paper has probably just been "lost" this whole time. This is a good (albeit distressing!) query. As far as I am concerned, the moment you send an email to a journal indicating that you have chosen to withdraw a manuscript, it is withdrawn, whether the journal responds or not. You do not have to wait for the journal to acknowledge your message, particularly if (as in this case) the journal has been unresponsive. Further, if any problems were to arise (i.e. a referee never being told by the journal and complaining about you engaging in double-submissions), then by my lights you would be "safe" as an author: as long as you have a copy of your email to prove that you withdrew it). Or so say I. What say you?Aside from what Anon should do in this particular case, there is a broader issue here: namely, what should be done about journals like this. The most obvious thing to do here is to refuse to submit to such journals again. Still, I wonder whether this is sufficient. To me, it seems unconscionable that a journal should be able to behave in this manner without consequence. Is there. . .

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News source: The Philosophers' Cocoon

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