Posted by: jonkatz | September 8, 2011

An argument against writing journal papers

(One of several arguments against writing journal papers, actually, but I’ll save that for another post.)

Conference version: 2005
Submitted to journal: 2008
Accepted to journal (pending revisions): 2010
Revised version submitted: Feb. 2011
Revised version accepted: June 2011
Final manuscript submitted: September 8, 2011
Publication date: ??



  1. Equally an argument against the way journals are currently managed.

  2. Date that the full, professionally written version of your paper appeared on the arxiv: 2004. Also, you seemed to have added about 3.5-4 years to this process all by yourself. Kudos.

  3. Is this J.Crypt? I’m still waiting for an INITIAL decision on a 2008 submission…

  4. Nick, I would bug the editor every 3 months…

    At some point, frustrating as it is, you also have to consider withdrawing and sending somewhere else.

  5. I do send annual inquiries, but it’s not so much frustrating as absurd; anyhow, the longer it waits, the better the story becomes. (I suppose it would be nice to get a decision before going up for full, but there’s no rush…)

  6. Uriel Feige, Dror Lapidot, Adi Shamir: Multiple Non-Interactive Zero Knowledge Proofs Based on a Single Random String (Extended Abstract) FOCS 1990;

    Journal version(Received by the editors April 13, 1992):

    Uriel Feige, Dror Lapidot, Adi Shamir: Multiple NonInteractive Zero Knowledge Proofs Under General Assumptions. SIAM J. Comput. 29(1): 1-28 (1999)

    Katz, I think you have only a negligible chance to break this record.


  7. Sounds awful.

    – Were the requested revisions useful in your opinion? Did the paper get better?

    – Why do you submit to Journals in the first place?

  8. I really don’t see the point of the argument. I can argue that conferences are much worse: since most of the submissions are rejected, then the time interval from submission to publication is actually infinite, not several years.
    Note that this is not a theoretical criticism, this is what happens actually. For instance, many papers at FOCS/STOC are accepted only after three submissions! This causes not only a delay, but a real harassment, since you need to actually submit the paper three times.
    Also, my experience with journals is much better. In most cases it’s faster than the whole conference submission process. Really.

  9. If you are in Australia, then the ARC (NSF equiv.) ranks journals more highly than conferences. So, we conference papers are pretty much a waste of effort.

  10. @Jonathan: According to my experience, the greatest delay in journal publications come not from the side of editors/referees but rather from the authors themselves. After my paper is published in, say, FOCS proceedings, I have no big motivation to work on the “journal version”, no fun to make a final version. Why? Just because the FOCS publication has more “weight” anyway. (The illness of TCS …)

    But I agree that handling editors of journals should work more efficiently. That these “fat guys”, like Elsevier or Springer also do a better job. (My several papers to Elsevier were just “forgotten” by their web-robots, only when I waked them up after 2-3 years, the editors made their decision in just few days, positive decisions, needless to say.)

    Finally, journal papers are meant to stay for several years, at least 10 years. If one wants to have a “quicky”, one can choose ArXiv or similar. Why conference? Only because this is still counted in CS as the only “real” publication?

  11. I send many papers to journals. Most of the time it’s about the editor. I have had papers take 3-4 years without any delay on my side, and have had others take much less time. If the editor sends reminders every few months to the referees, then it doesn’t take them too long (usually). So, my recommendation is to send to editors who you have had good experience with in the past. In addition, some journals are much worse than others. Currently, I won’t send anything to JACM. In the Journal of Crypto there are a lot of very good editors, so you can send to them (once you work out who they are).

  12. I believe the reason for the delay for publishing is more related to tradtion/policy. Compare to JAIR (a higly reslected AI journal):

    “articles sent to JAIR will be reviewed and a decision returned to the authors in approximately 8-12 weeks”

    But quick doesn’t mean low-quality:
    “Because of JAIR’s quick turnaround time, authors may be tempted to “test the waters” with papers that are less than they might be. Authors should submit only papers that have been carefully proofread and polished. Papers that are clearly unacceptable will be returned by the editor without being reviewed”

    (No reviewer asks for so many modifications so as to become a virtual co-author, for example. And I believe (not sure) that if a reviewer takes too long to answer, the editor drops his review and calls someone else.)

  13. …and the link to JAIR is

    (Also please forgive the typo in the previous comment — “reslected” -> “respected”)

  14. The editors are often the bottleneck. One time I sent a paper to a well respected journal, it took many years to appear and the editor would not even respond to email queries on the paper. The paper was probably in submission for 2-3 years. It was very frustrating and I considered filing a complaint with the editor in chief as well, but was a bit afraid to do so.
    JACM is actually pretty good in terms of responding quickly.

  15. 1. JoC paper by Biryukov and Shamir (SASAS): Eurocrypt 2001. JoC: 2010.
    2. JoC is well known for being slow (I have a list of good editors, which I won’t share, as they are overloaded with work).
    3. Journals have more through review process than conferences (actively checking proofs), just because there is no rush (in how many discussions we had the “gut” feeling that the proof is OK, but then it was found out to be not the case?).
    4. In some countries journal are ranked way more important than conferences (tenure committees, funding agencies, etc.).
    5. If you do not have travel budget, conference is way more expensive than a journal.

    Finally, I prefer conferences, but I can see why people think journals are important…

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