Here’s a situation that you can imagine is completely hypothetical, if you like.
Say a researcher submits a paper to journal A. The paper is under review for 2.5 years*, and the author still has not received any reviews. But journal A promises that reviews will be in soon. (They promised that 1 year, 6 months, and 3 months ago also.)
The author would like to get the paper published at some point, so he/she decides to submit the paper to journal B.
Should the author formally withdraw the paper from journal A? There are two motivations for not doing this: first, journal A is a better-ranked journal; second, keeping the paper under consideration at both journals increases the probability that the paper will be accepted somewhere in a reasonable period of time (let’s say the next 6 months).
Double submission to conferences and journals is frowned upon. As far as I can see, there is nothing inherently wrong with double submission, however in practice it has several negative effects (which is why I agree that it is, in general, wrong):
- Logistically, it creates a problem if the paper is accepted to two different conferences. (This assumes the paper cannot be presented at both, something that doesn’t seem inherently problematic to me, but anyway it’s not the way our field currently works.)
- Perhaps more importantly, submitting a paper to several conferences increases the workload of the reviewers, editors, PC chairs, etc. (Thinking about it a bit, it is not clear that this is a valid argument: is there any net difference whether a paper is reviewed twice in parallel vs. twice in succession?)
As far as I can tell, neither of the above reasons apply to the case mentioned earlier: it doesn’t really create a serious logistical problem for a paper to be accepted to two journals (and then be published in only one of them), and if the reviewers of journal A are not doing their job then I don’t see why one should care about their workload. (Nor do I see how the lack of work on the part of the reviewers of journal A should affect the workload of the reviewers for journal B.) What are your thoughts?
* Yes, this does point to a problem with the way journals currently work in our field. I wish I could say that waiting 2+ years for a review is unusual, but it has happened to me multiple times.