With the advent of electronic publishing has come a wealth of ancillary data on issues related to the acceptance of articles for publication. Large data sets can now be quickly analysed to assess whether or not certain features, previously deemed unimportant, can actually affect the chances of a research paper being accepted for publication. In this post, James Hartley looks at new research on weekly submission dates.
In 2017 myself and Guillaume Cabanac published the results from our examination of the electronic records for over 11,000 manuscripts submitted to the British Journal of Educational Technology (BJET) between 2005 and 2014. The data we assessed (amongst others) were the dates of the original submissions, the dates that selected papers were sent to the referees, the dates that the referees returned their reports with their recommendations (e.g., Accept, Minor revisions, Major revisions, Revise and resubmit, and Reject) and – if appropriate – the dates of resubmissions and revised manuscripts. Inadvertently, of course, this data also disclosed the days of the week when these operations were carried out.
Our results showed that the number of submissions (N = 6130), either initial or revised, declined steadily throughout the week, with Monday being the most frequent (18%) and Saturdays and Sundays the least frequent (7 and 9%). Unfortunately, we did not analyse at that time whether or not there were any differences between the acceptance rates for papers submitted on these different days of the week.
However, other investigators have done just this. In 2016 Marcel Ausloos and his colleagues, for instance, reported on their examination of the relationship, if any, between the days of submission and acceptance of 596 papers published by the Serbian Chemical Society in 2013-14. These investigators found a Tuesday-Wednesday effect. Most papers were submitted on a Wednesday but a higher proportion of the ones submitted on a Tuesday were accepted. And, as in our own study reported above, Ausloos et al (2016) also found that the greatest proportion of rejected manuscripts were submitted on a Saturday or a Sunday.
More recently Boja et al (2018) examined the days of the week for the submissions of 178,427 accepted papers to the science journals Physica A, PLOS ONE, Nature and Cell. These investigators found a day of the week effect for all four of these journals, with highly significant differences being reported between the number of successful submissions on weekdays compared with those at the weekend (approximately 17.5% per each week day versus approx. 6% at the weekend for each journal).
Some other points to consider when examining these data sets are that there might be overriding (i) seasonal effects, (ii) hemispheric effects, and (iii) specific effects that can be attributed to religious beliefs and practices in different parts of the world. There have in fact been several studies of such variables (see here for references) but there have been no clear cut findings in these studies with respect to submission dates. In 2017 Ausloos et al re-analysed their 2016 data and rejected the notion that there might be a seasonal effect – or a teaching/vacation split in their data. Similarly, Boja et al did not find any significant effects for different seasons or different continents, although significantly more papers were submitted during the Christmas period.
So there we have it. The authors in all of the studies reported above find a similar finding. This is to the effect that papers submitted at weekends are less successful than papers submitted during the week and there are few, if any, seasonal effects. Just why this should be so is not clear. But I for one, will submit this paper to the LSE Blog on a Tuesday…
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About the author
James Hartley is Emeritus Professor of Psychology in the School of Psychology, Keele University, UK (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This is very interesting! How do we infer that papers submitted at the weekend are ‘less successful’? Ausloos’ dataset looks too small and too specific to give a general finding. I can’t access the Boja paper, but you say it’s based on accepted papers, not submitted papers, so I don’t see how it implies that weekend submissions are less likely to be accepted. Apologies if I missed something.
you did not;
to have data on rejected papers because submitted on a given day is extreeeemly difficult; we asked plenty of editors and publishers; guess the answer; only global values, which certainly do not “prove” anything
on the other hand, how many papers do you want for your (my) statistical analysis? ; do you know how the error bar evolves as a function of the sample size ?
Hi, I work as a Data Scientist for SAGE. I’ve looked at our numbers for submissions and accepts by day of week. The data is hugely variable by day, as well as seasonal. But we did see the same overall pattern – with high submissions on Monday, low submissions on Saturday etc. Data varied a lot between journals, so this was why I didn’t think the result would apply generally. I don’t remember looking at accept/reject rates by day of week, though, which is the part I find really interesting. I might go back and have another look at that!
Could it be that people who (have to) work weekends on writing/polishing their papers are less established / experienced? If you submit on a Tuesday, there is a a good chance that you are actually being paid to finish a manuscript during your regular working hours. Unfortunately, that’s all speculation without more detailed information on authors.
Many reasons might be responsible for this result. Most important is Sundays give the researcher a last alert that submission will be delayed one week by the beginning of work in Monday. So focuses and reach to the best preparation that not been available in other days. I agree with the result.