Time from submission to publication varied widely for biomedical journals: a systematic review

Mikkel Zola Andersen, Siv Fonnes, Jacob Rosenberg

9 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: Fast dissemination of research is important for improving treatments and thus benefitting patients, caregivers, and researchers. However, getting scientific papers published may take a long time. The editorial handling time can be delayed by several processes both before and after acceptance of the paper. The aim of this study was to systematically review the editorial handling time of biomedical peer-reviewed literature (i.e. time from submission to publication).

METHODS: The protocol for this systematic review was registered in PROSPERO (CRD42020196238). PubMed and EMBASE were searched systematically on 29 May 2020. We included publications on the timespan between submission and publication for accepted articles published in biomedical journals.

RESULTS: Of the 4197 unique studies identified in the search, 69 were included in the systematic review. The mean timespan from submission to publication varied from 91 to 639 days, while the median timespan varied from 70 to 558 days. Submission to acceptance and acceptance to publication timespans showed similar disparity with means ranging from 50 to 276 and 11 to 362 days, respectively. Data were too statistically heterogeneous to perform meta-analyses.

CONCLUSION: Editorial handling times of journals varied widely from a few months to almost two years, which delays the availability of new evidence. The editorial handling time did not differ between submission-to-acceptance-time and acceptance-to-publication-time. Examining differences in editorial processes between journals with long and short editorial handling times may help uncover, which processes are frequent causes of delay and thereby where to improve.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCurrent Medical Research and Opinion
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)985-993
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2021


  • Publication time
  • publication delay
  • submission
  • acceptance
  • systematic review
  • journalology


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