A Three-Decade History of the Duration of Peer Review


Review time is the duration between submission of a manuscript for possible publication and the author’s receipt of notification of the editor’s decision. There are two key questions about the peer-review process: (1) Has average review time changed over the past several decades? and (2) Has the adoption of online submission reduced average review time? A sample of 170 manuscripts submitted to a variety of journals from 1980 through 2012 indicates (1) no statistically significant difference between average review time for manuscripts submitted to behavioural science journals (mean = 14.8 weeks) and average review time for manuscripts submitted to natural history journals (mean = 15.2 weeks); (2) a statistically significant decrease from 1980 to 2012 in average review time irrespective of form of submission (i.e., paper or electronic); and (3) manuscripts submitted in paper form (1980–2009) had an average review time five weeks longer than that of manuscripts submitted online or electronically (2004–2012).