Your manuscript has been accepted, so what happens next? Generally, this is a three-step process: manuscript submission, peer review, and post-acceptance preparation. After a manuscript is submitted to a target journal, it undergoes peer review. However, several steps occur that often only the corresponding author is aware of. Once submitted to a journal, the manuscript travels around quite a bit and the manuscript status is followed using the manuscript number. The manuscript is either accepted or rejected. Following peer review, if a manuscript is accepted, it then undergoes proof development and a review process prior to publication. This process is often tedious as it requires careful review of the publication-ready version of your manuscript. If you miss anything here, it may be difficult to correct!
Once the manuscript has been received by the journal, it is assigned a manuscript number. The staff at the journal will check for compliance with formatting and style requirements. Meanwhile, a managing editor in the appropriate subject area performs an initial screening to decide if it is worth sending the manuscript for peer-review. During this “triage” stage, the editor may issue what is sometimes called a “desk rejection.” In brief, these rejections are due to the manuscript either being insufficiently novel, containing obvious problems with methodology or simply being off-topic for the journal.
Any required additional missing information will be solicited from the corresponding author prior to peer review. Anyone involved in peer reviewer must first accept the invitation to review your manuscript. Then, once all reviewers are in place, the manuscript is peer reviewed, which results in peer review reports that are returned to the editorial office for consideration by the Editor-in-Chief. In the end, the manuscript is accepted, rejected, or indicated to require revisions for the second round of peer-review.
After the manuscript has been accepted, several logistical steps are taken to prepare it for publication. First, in some instances, the English language in the manuscript must be improved. This may be performed using an editing service. Whether this step is completed before or after acceptance is at the discretion of reviewers and editors. Indeed, some journals will accept the manuscript and perform subsequent editing or instead require the author to complete the editing process. Then, an invoice for the publishing fees is submitted to the corresponding author, which is subsequently paid prior to journal formatting. Once paid, the journal performs typesetting and manuscript proof development, which are approved by the editorial staff and proof management staff prior to being returned to the authors for review.
Finally, the proofs are reviewed by the authors involved in the study. Any requested corrections are returned to the journal until proof approval is granted. At this stage, the manuscript will often be published online in advance and, in some cases, in print. Weeks or months later, the manuscript information is transferred to PubMed or other central repositories for indexing.
Common Concerns and Questions
This general timeline varies by journal, the length of the peer review process, and uniqueness of each manuscript. Furthermore, various journals often have status descriptions that indicate the step that the manuscript is at during the review and publication process. Once your manuscript is submitted to a journal, it is important to keep the manuscript number handy! It will be used to track your manuscript through the peer review process and provide any other updates regarding your manuscript status.