[Post updated on June 19, 2022.]
Each manuscript is special in its own way. Yet for a sufficiently large number of manuscripts, one can draw insight from statistical measures. At Nature Biomedical Engineering, we collect some numbers into a 'journal dashboard':
These numbers are rolling statistics over 6-month intervals (to smooth out fluctuations*). Each data point corresponds to a 6-month period ending at the time point indicated in the horizontal axis. The numbers on the right are median values, and the numbers at the centre indicate the graphed interval (minimum and maximum values) for each graph. The shaded area denotes the time period before journal launch (January 2017).
It may be tempting to read into fluctuations and trends in the data, and whether changes in one graph cause changes in another. In reality, many short-term trends are caused by factors that can't be gauged from the data, such as workload fluctuations owing to editorial projects, travelling commitments, and staffing considerations.
Note that accepted manuscripts in any 6-month period have typically been submitted in the previous 6-month period, yet the numbers in graphs 1 and 2 are plotted with respect to manuscripts submitted (graph 1) or with a decision after peer review (graph 2) within the same 6-month period. Hence, the fractions of accepted papers shown for the first few months after the journal opened for submissions (20 April 2016) are artificially low, owing to rapid increases in the numbers of submitted manuscripts.
For decisions on manuscripts after a first round of peer review (graph 4), for most manuscripts beyond day 40 after submission (and while we are waiting for any additional late reports), when possible we provide authors with the obtained reviewer reports and a preliminary decision. Typically, it takes 7 days to secure all reviewers needed, and the set of review reports are in 22 days thereafter.
* Numbers for the most recent few months can vary slightly in successive updates of the plot because of the reconsideration of negative decisions and because earlier presubmission enquiries can lead to manuscripts considered for peer review. When manuscripts sent for a first round of external review do not include the reporting summary and the policy checklist, the decision turnaround time includes the time needed by the authors to fill in these forms and update the manuscript, as well as time needed to address specific editorial requests if any.