Reader survey: which journals are fast?

I’m often asked by students and junior colleagues where I think they should submit a paper they’ve just finished. It’s not so hard to figure out whether a given journal is a good mathematical fit for the paper. What’s harder is when the author has a job application coming up, and really wants the paper not to sit in referee hell for a year and a half.

My go-to journals for a fast response are Mathematical Research Letters and International Math Research Notices. But it would be great to have some others. So: which journals, in your experience, are reliably fast? Bonus points if they’re cheap, or even free.

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5 thoughts on “Reader survey: which journals are fast?

  1. Greg Martin says:

    There’s a quite new journal called “Algebra and Number Theory” that has a high-quality editorial board. I just had a very pleasant and quick experience with a submitted paper there – 4 months from first submission, to feedback from the referee/editor and a second submission, to notice of acceptance.

  2. I don’t have any helpful recommendations as my experience with journals has been pretty uniform, with refereeing taking 7-12 months, though there have been a few quicker outliers, mostly for shorter papers. The time from acceptance to actual publication has varied a lot more, from a couple of days to a year or so. Greg mentions ANT, which is part of a family of journals which includes Geometry and Topology, and the later publishes within a few weeks of acceptance, which is one reason I like to send my papers there. G&T is not faster at refereeing than other journals, though, and “to appear in” is essentially as good as actually having appeared for the purposes of jobs and such.

    The AMS does publish information on expected and observed refereeing times in the Notices, but I don’t know how accurate it is.

  3. I am still trying to figure these things out myself…But my current theory is that in order to secure a faster refereeing process, it is better to think about which editor to submit to rather than which journal to submit to. In particular this means submitting to a journal where you can specify — or at least, recommend — a specific editor to handle your paper, which is not always possible.

    Unfortunately it seems harder to pass along information about which editors are fast. I myself have one favorite “fast editor” at the moment, but if I mentioned his/her name to all of you…well, you see the problem.

    I also think that submitting to an editor that you (or your advisor, if you are very junior) have some acquaintance with is probably a good idea.

    Another way to speed up the average time is of course to make sure that you yourself turn around refereeing jobs as soon as possible. Myself, for short papers and/or papers which I can understand well without having to pore over every single line, I like to get the job done in a month or less. Conversely, if I know I’m not going to have time to look at a paper for a month or more, I don’t agree to referee it. Why waste everyone’s time?

  4. Xander Faber says:

    I’ve found the New York Journal of Mathematics to be lightning fast in its referee process. It’s a completely online journal, so it’s as free as it gets! My article went from submission to publication in just under a year, but I seem to remember that I got a referee report in about 3 months.

  5. Jim Bryan says:

    I’ve also had a good experience with ANT. I’m an editor of G&T and we strive to be very fast (but of course probably every journal “strives” to be fast). Pretty much the only bottleneck in an electronic journal like ANT or G&T is with refereeing and that can vary tremendously. I try to put pressure on referees to have a quick turn around, but that is not as easy as it sounds. It of course depends heavily on the nature of the paper as well as the referees themselves. The majority of the papers I’ve handled have been quick — well within a year between submission and publication (and much, much quicker for rejections). But some have been really held up, despite my best efforts to move them along. This is sometimes due to legitimate reasons rather than delinquency — for example, many iterations of extensive revisions, or the paper has a very technical result in a field where the list of expert referees is very small (and over extended themselves).

    In my personal experience of submissions, I’ve always been impressed with the speed and quality of the refereeing at Duke — both in acceptances and rejections. Advances has not impressed me — they have some system where the handling editor may not actually be aware that there is a hold up unless the author pesters him or her. Inventiones has also not impressed me with speed (and notice that both Inventiones and Advances are commercial publishers!).

    One last piece of advice to help speed up your submissions: make sure that your paper is carefully thought out and well written! Most of the papers which I have handled and which have experienced delays have really good results which are really poorly written. Can your introduction be easily read by a reasonably broad cross-section of people in your field, and does it accurately convey what you have done? Is the logical of your proof transparent or carefully explained? Is your notation consistent? Is it easy to find the definitions of all your symbols and terms? Terry Tao has some excellent and concrete advice for writing math papers on his blog. Investing time on the writing end will result in saving time on the submission/publication end.

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