One of the slightly confusing things that GEMS does to authors is show them the Manuscript Status Table at the bottom of the page regarding a submission. It shows all status changes throughout the life of the manuscript, from the initiation of the submission process through quality control, reviewer assignment, and decision. While this is, in general, useful information for authors to have that let’s you know where your paper is along the editorial path, it can sometimes be a point of frustration and concern.
Let me go through a few example tables to explain some of the entries. For full disclosure, these are all from my own papers on which I was either first author or coauthor. Really, though, it doesn’t matter, because you cannot tell the author or paper from this table. I will go through one in this post, and then more in subsequent posts (hopefully up in the next day or two).
For the first submission of a new manuscript, the table might look something like this:
Let’s go through it chronologically, which means starting from the bottom of the table and working our way up. The first 3 entries are all at the pace of the corresponding author. As you can see, for this paper, it took about an hour to work through the submission process. While that seems onerous, the metadata and supplemental information we as editors receive from you is extremely valuable, so we appreciate your extra time to make these entries. The file conversion and approval also takes some time.
When you click the final button to submit the manuscript, then the manuscript is passed off to AGU HQ staff for the quality control. Some of this is automatically processed (like the creation of a Similarity Report), but other parts, like the Data Policy compliance check, are done by hand. It looks like for this manuscript, all of the processing was completed the same day as the initial submission.
It then goes off to me, the Editor-in-Chief, for assignment to one of the five editors (including myself). My biggest concerns there are editor expertise in the field, load balance between the editors, and avoiding institutional conflicts between authors and editors. I pay attention to your preference requests and, more often than not, grant your request and assign that editor. Interestingly, there is no status line item for this step; my timing to assign the paper to a specific editor is not recorded in this table.
The next entry is “Contacting Potential Reviewers.” This line item is added once the editor has selected potential reviewers and clicked the “Done” button on that screen. The emails will go out within a day, either by the editor clicking a button in GEMS or one of the AGU staff clicking that button. It looks like, for this manuscript, the multi-step process of me assigning this paper to an editor, the editor assigning himself as Associate Editor, and the editor selecting 6 potential reviewers took just under a day.
The next line, “Under Review,” indicates that someone has clicked the button in GEMS to agree to be a referee for this paper. You notice, however, that at the same time the next line appeared in the table, “Contacting Potential Reviewers.” This is one of those confusing parts of the system. Because the editor requested 2 reviewers for this paper (the default for JGR-Space Physics), the status of the paper reverts back to “Contacting…” because the system still desires another reviewer. So, there is a second “Under Review” line item above this, indicating the time that a second person agreed to review the manuscript. It looks like, for this paper, this process took quite a while: 6 days to secure the first reviewer and another 18 days to secure the second.
The next line is “With Editor For Decision.” This means that both reviews are in and the editor has a “red arrow” in the GEMS system indicating that the paper is ready for a decision. The last review came in early one morning and the editor apparently saw the task in GEMS and made a decision just a few hours later, shown as another line, “Decision Made.” However, here is another confusing entry; the two lines are repeated. This is because the decision email is sent to AGU staff, who add the attachments and whatever other processing the decision letter might need, and then they officially send the email on to the corresponding author. The final line item at the top, “Waiting for Revision,” is when the decision email actually went out to the author.
I hope you find this helpful. There are a few confusing entries in resubmission manuscript status tables, as well, and I’ll cover those in the very near future.